Rare Cancer Survivor and Single Mom, Megan Held, Realizes Her Dream To Become RN
Please tell me a little bit about yourself.
I was the speaker for the pinning ceremony for my class. What I focused on in my speech is the question every professor asks you, “what made you want to be a nurse?” When I was eighteen years old and lived in Minnesota, I was diagnosed with leukemia. Only 164 people had ever been diagnosed with the same type of rare leukemia and not one had survived. They only gave me three months to live. The odds were not good for me when they diagnosed me, but they started the highest dose of chemo they possibly could give somebody, so it made me pretty sick.
The nurses were the reason I kept my head up through my entire treatment process, which was a little bit over a year. When I was finished with my treatments, I decided that I wanted to be a nurse. I was so impressed by their empathy and knowledge. I realized that was my calling and what I needed to do. That’s when I became a nursing assistant on the same oncology floor where I did my treatment. I loved it, but then I moved to Arizona, started working as a server, and became a single mom. There were some bumps along the way, but I’m forty-two now and I finally made it happen!
When did you decide to pursue your career in nursing?
When I was forty. I didn’t want to stay working as a server in a restaurant. I was so unhappy with my job. I also wanted to get back into healthcare and I knew my daughter was old enough to be reasonably self-sufficient and let me study. I had to make it happen and joined Mesa’s Nursing Program.
What motivated you to choose Carrington in particular?
They didn’t have a waitlist. I had a friend who had been on a waitlist to get into a nursing program for four years. I went into Carrington one day, told them I was interested, took my entrance exam, passed it, and I literally started school a month after that. My friend ended up switching to Carrington because she didn’t want to wait anymore.
What was your favorite part of your program at Carrington?
It is hard for me to pick one subject but I guess I would say Medical Surgical nursing. That’s a broad subject where you learn about the different disease processes and pathophysiology behind everything. It helped make everything make sense and I really enjoyed that. We had that class every semester, so we had a Med/Surg 1, 2, 3, and 4.
What was the most challenging part of your program?
I’m definitely going to say being switched to online due to COVID and not being there in-person even though we were live with our professors. Also, not being able to get to know our classmates to the same degree. We still got to know each other, but I feel like it would had been different if we had been in the classroom together for the whole two years. Besides all of that, being forty-years old and trying to manage my time while working, spending time with my kid, and going back to school. I also had to set aside time for me to just unwind from everything. It took me about a year before I felt like I could balance everything.
Did you ever want to quit when you were in school?
No. I cried many times. It was stressful, but I never once said I was quitting. I would remind myself all the time that it wasn’t supposed to be easy. This has been my dream since I was 18. I was very determined.
What got you through the challenging times?
I just kept my momentum going because I knew this was my dream. This has been my dream since I was eighteen. I was thinking about being a nurse all throughout nursing school even when I was crying. Nursing is my passion. I feel like I was born to be a nurse. That’s what got me through–knowing at the end of this that my dream would come true and I would finally become a nurse. I will also be able to provide a better life for my kid as a single mom.
Is there a Carrington instructor or staff member who you would like to acknowledge?
Dr. Scott–she was my obstetrics and pediatric nursing instructor. She was just awesome. I could call her right now and talk to her about anything. She was my favorite and very knowledgeable. For example, I have no interest in OB nursing, but the way she taught it made it very interesting. Then when we were put on clinicals on that floor with that lingo that is completely different from regular nursing, I understood everything because of what she taught us. She was a nurse for a long time and she is great at teaching. I also consider her a good friend. When I passed my NCLEX on February 2nd, she was the first person I called. I also need to mention my professor Kim Swantek for my last Med/Surg class. She taught me how to critically think and was absolutely phenomenal.
Tell us about your current work.
I work at Mercy Gilbert Medical Center in Gilbert, Arizona. I just had my one year anniversary there. I started as a Nurse Assistant (NA), then I became a Nurse Extern, and by passing the NCLEX, I became a registered nurse. They have a new grad training program and a new grad cohort starts every five or six months. I think there is about three months of training. That’s why I got a job at the hospital as an NA so I could get my foot in the door and make an easy transition into nursing. I currently work in neuro telemetry, which has mostly stroke and cardiac patients. We get a lot of COVID patients now, too.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
So many things. When I leave work every day, I feel so good because I know that I helped make somebody’s day a little bit brighter by taking care of them. On my floor, we have so many people who can’t do anything on their own. When I was an NA, I would always make sure they were clean. Now, I will do little things like sit by their bedside with a stool to talk to them so I am at eye level and not standing over them. The young cancer patients really hit home for me. I had a young mother with two kids who I took care of for two weeks and the doctors told her there was nothing more they could do for her. I helped get her dressed to go home to die. She hugged me and cried and thanked me for everything that I did for her. It felt terrible that she was going to die and her kids were going to lose their mom, but I was thankful that I was at least able to help her for that last part of her life.
How did Carrington prepare you for your career?
All of my professors had experience working at the bedside. So, they would give me real-life scenarios, and could also answer any questions that I had about being a nurse. They would teach about “perfect world” nursing but you could also ask them about “real world” nursing. I had professors who I feel prepared me to go out into the real world instead of just the school world. They had a lot of experience and a rich knowledge base from the medical world. Their stories helped me feel confident going into the medical field as a nurse.
Do you have any advice for people interested in going into your field?
Make sure you have the passion and the empathy for this work. You don’t want to go into it for the wrong reason. Also, be prepared to work hard. It is the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life. I think a lot of people go into nursing school not knowing how hard it is, so prepare yourself. You are going to cry and that is completely normal. If you really have a passion for it, all the hard work is worth it in the end.