Losses and Gains: For Reno Registered Nursing Graduate Jay Brownson, Big Changes Have Been Both Professional and Personal
For the past seven years, Jay Brownson has been a man on a mission.
Back in 2013, when he first walked through the doors of Carrington College in Reno, Nevada, Jay was a 22-year-old married father of two who weighed 380 pounds. After several years working retail, at a movie theater and a portrait studio, he was ready to pursue an education and launch his career.
Today, at 29, Jay is a graduate of the Carrington College Registered Nursing program, has completed his master’s degree in Nursing Education, and works full time as a nursing supervisor at a Reno hospital. He’s also been teaching nursing at Carrington full time for nearly two years. And after losing 180 pounds, the now-divorced father of three sons has plenty of energy to enjoy the active life he’s living.
“Big changes don’t happen by accident,” Jay says. “They require a real commitment and a desire for things to be different. Before I enrolled in the RN program at Carrington, I worked my share of what I call ‘odds and ends’ jobs. I had a lot of responsibility, but not a lot of options. I knew my life wouldn’t improve unless I got an education and focused on a career path. I was sure that earning my degree would lead to some great opportunities, and that’s exactly what happened.”
While attending Carrington’s accelerated, two-year Registered Nursing program, Jay worked for a medical private practice. Shortly after graduating in August, 2015, he landed a position in the Cardiac Telemetry unit at Renown Regional Medical Center, an 850-bed hospital and Level 2 trauma center.
“I was a floor nurse for 18 months before I was promoted to a leadership role,” Jay says. “I became a charge nurse for the night shift, overseeing and supporting the nursing staff. I’m now a house supervisor at Renown’s 150-bed South Meadows facility, which means I supervise the entire hospital during the night shift. I work three 12-hour shifts a week, which frees me up to teach and spend time with my boys.”
In June of 2018, while completing his master’s degree in Nursing Education at Western Governors University, Jay made a life-changing decision to have weight loss surgery.
“I’d been overweight since I was in second grade,” he explains. “At 380 pounds, I was really struggling at a time when so many other things in my life we really going well. And with three young sons under the age of 10, I need all the energy I can get. I’ve lost 180 pounds over the past two and a half years. I’m healthier and happier now, and I feel like I’m living the life I was meant to live.”
Jay says he believes his weight loss has helped make him a more effective nurse and patient advocate.
“When you’re encouraging others to live healthier lives, you can’t help but feel hypocritical when you’re morbidly obese,” Jay says. “Patients don’t take you as seriously when you’re encouraging them to do things that you clearly don’t do yourself. That’s one of the reasons I used to be so self-conscious about my appearance. Now I can talk with patients about self-care and share my own story about how I’ve regained my health and what I do to maintain a healthier lifestyle.”
In February, 2019, Jay reached out to Carrington to explore the possibilities of teaching clinical programs.
“I had great timing, because they were just beginning a search for an instructor to teach Acute Care,” Jay recalls. “They offered me the class and I’ve been teaching ever since. It has evolved into a full time position. It’s the perfect job for me, because I love working with students and guiding them through the process. I remember what it’s like to be a nursing student, and I do whatever I can to support them as they navigate their way through the program.”
Jay says the past seven years have taught him the power of persistence.
“Whenever I’m talking with students who might be having a tough time balancing school, work and family, I always tell them to ‘remember your why’”, says Jay. “I know that nursing school can be challenging. I know there are also times you wonder if you’ll make it through. I’ve been there and had those same doubts. But I also know that when you stay focused and remember why you wanted to become a nurse in the first place, it’s much easy to overcome the obstacles and achieve your goal. I’m proof that you can make it happen—and that big changes are possible.”