From military to mom to nursing student, Lauren Ignacio is no stranger to hardship and hard work.
When she was first accepted to West Coast University right out of high school, she had to pass on her dream university because of financial reasons. However, this didn’t stop her from pursuing an education. Lauren opted for community college and then served as a civil service employee for the U.S. Air Force. She served for four years and used GI benefits to finance part of her studies.
However, even after she completed her civil service, the time still wasn’t right for Lauren to focus on her education.
“I had a little boy. He became sick and I had to stop the schooling I was in at the time,” Lauren explained. She dropped out of her school in Mississippi to take care of her son.
It wasn’t until later in life, when her son was recovered, and they were living in Texas that she gave nursing school another chance. However, the school did not work out for her.
“It just wasn’t a good fit. They weren’t flexible. They weren’t really encouraging,” she said. “They were always telling me, ‘you’re a single mom, maybe you should wait,’ instead of encouraging me.”
Without the support she needed to finish her nursing degree in Texas, Lauren began feeling like it was time for a change.
“I decided I wanted to give WCU another chance. I had a lot of credits and I was just ready to come back home,” she said.
Lauren moved back to California, re-applied to WCU once again and two months later began her nursing program at WCU-Ontario.
What made you want to become a nurse in the first place?
My mom was an RN and my grandma was a certified nursing assistant. I’ve always had that exposure to the medical field, but it wasn’t until I had that experience with my son being sick, and my own health issues while pregnant, that I really got to see the full scope of nurses. They’re not only handling medical issues, but also the psychosocial and the personal things you go through.
I was humbled and honored to have the experience that I did with various members of the healthcare team. I want to touch people’s lives in that same exact way.
What drew you to West Coast University?
I had a couple of cousins graduate from WCU. One was an active-duty Marine. He took the psychiatric route because of veterans with PTSD and psych issues. I had another cousin who took the more holistic health route. So just seeing how WCU was able to give them that exposure to those various types of nursing.
They also just love how it was accelerated. We all come from that hustle background and I feel like WCU is like, “you know what, if you’re ready to give it your all, if you’re ready to be 100 percent about school, then we’ll provide you with those resources and tools.” The energy that WCU brings is aligned with how I am, with my mentality.
What is your end goal with nursing? Do you know what kind of nurse you want to become?
I like the intensity, so either emergency or trauma. But based on my experience with my son, I think I would thrive in pediatrics just because my son has coded before. He’s had respiratory issues where he’s choking. As a mom, it’s hard to see your child do that, but you have to react — and I’ve always been able to react. I feel like I would offer a certain level of perspective that maybe other people couldn’t.
I would love to go all the way and get my DNP. My dad has helped me so much. My mom has been so supportive. I want to take advantage of the opportunities I’ve been given. I see so many routes in front of me and I just have to decide on one. But furthering my education, that’s definitely something I’m going to do.
How do you balance schoolwork with the challenges of being a single mom?
Very, very strict discipline. Listening to my body. Listening to my son. Listening to the needs of my child and setting realistic expectations for myself.
As he’s gotten older, he’s needed more of my attention, so I’ve had to shift my study time to when he’s asleep or when he’s at school. I used to be able to get that 4.0 GPA every single term. Keeping a 3.5 or 3.2 has been something I’ve had to learn to accept — I’m doing everything I can and that is enough. It’s OK if I’m being an amazing mom and a good student, instead of the other way around.