Reno Registered Nursing Grad Amanda McRae Survives ‘Trial by Fire’, Lands Nursing Job Before Finishing Program
When Amanda McRae decided to become a Registered Nurse and began pursuing her Associate Degree in Nursing at Carrington’s Reno campus in October, 2019, she knew the next year and a half would be intense.
But looking back, “intense” doesn’t even begin to describe what was to come.
For starters, the global pandemic changed everything in March, 2020. Instead of attending classes on campus, Amanda, 32, had to quickly adapt to remote learning, which was especially challenging with five-year-old twin sons at home.
Then, in December, less than three weeks before Christmas, Amanda’s 29-year-old ex-husband died unexpectedly of complications from Covid-19 during the week of her mid-term exams. Overnight, she beca a single parent to her boys, Oliver and Avery.
The months that have followed tested Amanda’s will and determination in ways she never anticipated. With the support of family and friends, she’s meeting the challenge. Three weeks before graduating, she was offered a position as a Registered Nurse by St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Reno.
We talked with Amanda about the struggles she’s recently experienced, how she’s managing them, and how her new career is providing a sense of purpose and hope:
The past year has been a tough one for everyone—and especially tough for you. How are you doing?
I’m doing the best I can under the circumstances. My ex-husband and I shared custody, and we worked well together in taking care of our boys. Suddenly, the responsibility was 100% mine. As you can imagine, it was a really rough Christmas. The boys had just lost their dad, and I was struggling to protect their little hearts, keep my own balance, and figure out how I was going to manage being a suddenly single parent. It’s really been a trial by fire, and a challenge I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
You’ve completed your Medical Assisting program and your Associate degree in Nursing, both at Carrington. What motivated you to enroll in the Medical Assisting program back in 2017?
I’d been working for six years as a care provider at a residential care facility in Carson City. I helped take care of children and teenagers with intellectual and developmental disabilities who required special care and treatment. My bosses there often encouraged me to go off and become a nurse. At the time, I questioned whether I had what it takes. But I knew I wanted more. I thought about becoming an emergency medical technician (EMT), but then I decided to go to school to become a certified Medical Assistant. I had just ended my marriage and had two-year-old twins at the time. I knew that going back to school was never going to get any easier, so I just decided to go for it.
At the time, did you plan to continue your education and become a Registered Nurse?
To be honest, no. I struggle with self-confidence, and that would have felt like too big a dream at the time. I did really well when I graduated from the Deaf Studies program at Western Nevada College, but I’d been out of school for more than five years when I enrolled at Carrington. When I was pulling a 3.75 grade point average in my Medical Assisting program, that’s when I realized I really might be capable of more.
It’s funny, because it seemed like everyone I worked for kept encouraging me to leave them and go to school. The surgeons I worked for told me they thought I would be a great surgical nurse. That kind of support and encouragement gave me the boost of confidence I needed.
You hit a roadblock midway through your nursing program. What happened?
I had to sit out a semester because I failed an exam. It was disappointing because I was in a cohort of 24 students who really got along and worked well together. When I returned after taking a semester off, I was in a class of 14—and we were connecting online for our classes because of the pandemic. It just wasn’t the same, but somehow it all worked.
Remote learning has presented a learning curve for many students. What was it like attending classes with five-year-old twins at home?
Let’s just say was a real balancing act! The boys are very proud of their mommy and understood that I needed quiet time whenever I was online for class. For the most part, they’re pretty well-behaved, but there were a few times they couldn’t resist crashing the class and waving at my teacher and the other students.
You had a job offer even before you completed your degree. Tell us what you’re doing now.
I just started my new job as a Registered Nurse in the Cardiac Telemetry unit at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Reno. I was already working at St. Mary’s as a Patient Safety Advocate, so I kind of thought I would get hired, but I never imagined I’d get a job offer before I’d even graduated! I received a provisional job offer the last week of January. I graduated February 8, passed the NCLETS exam on March 10, and started my new job on March 21. It’s been a whirlwind, but I love it. I’m hoping to eventually work as a surgical nurse or in labor and delivery. There’s lot of room for growth and I’m really looking forward to seeing where my new job takes me.
What would you say to someone who might be thinking about returning to school?
Believe in yourself. That’s not something I’ve always done, but I’ve gotten a lot better at it. You never know who you might inspire. I’ve learned through experience that if you commit, stay focused and give it your all, you can—and will—succeed.