From Student to Nurse: 5 Tips on How I Got There and How You Can Too!

Growing up, I never said, “I want to be a nurse.” 

A product of South Central Los Angeles and its public school system, I was never counseled for major careers. The only tip given to me for success was to become a secretary. However, through the “village” (family that pushed me to excel and taught me the value of having a higher education and career), I excelled at academics in high school, particularly creative writing classes. But somehow, the hospital environment was always thrilling to me, especially the emergency room. Born into a family of hospital workers, I found value in helping others stay healthy, but I never thought of becoming a nurse. 

My roadmap out of South Central Los Angeles was my acceptance into the pharmacy program at University of The Pacific in Northern California. However, this was not because of my choice. Instead, my mother thought it would be a lucrative career, and I took the challenge. After many obstacles, mainly a lack of study discipline, I soon returned home only to discover that I had no clue as to the direction of my future career.

After pursuing multiple career options such as computer science, journalism, business law, and massage therapy, I set my sights on becoming a registered nurse. The career that had intrigued me for all of my formative years was displayed in front of me unknowingly by mentors that discussed the career, the benefits of the pay, and their zest for living the life of a registered nurse. 

Working as a registration clerk at Martin Luther King Hospital (known back then as “Killer King”), I also observed emergency room nurses save the lives of dying patients and orchestrate with doctors on how to perform procedures. I imagined drawing up the medications like those nurses, traveling to exotic countries as a travel nurse, and being the backbone of the hospital.

But… I almost gave up! 

Many obstacles arose during school. I went through a divorce. I came down with pyelonephritis (kidney infection) and had a temperature of 103 degrees. My grandmother passed. I could have easily thrown in the towel, but when you are driven and know that your pursuit is not only for you but for your family and children, you will find a way to continue. In the back of my mind, I knew that I had to conquer this career, and I knew that I had developed the necessary tools to be successful. 

Many of you that are reading this blog aspire to become nurses. Perhaps others are in the “giving up” phase that I described above. Still, some of you simply don’t believe that you are capable. If any of these characterizations fit you, please know that you can succeed! Read my 5 tips on how I got there and how you can too!

  1. Let No Obstacle Get in the Way of Your Success. You will often want to give in, but you must take that energy and think of the ultimate prize. Resonating on remedies rather than the problem is most beneficial. Having success strategies for those “what if” moments such as “What if my car breaks down? What if I don’t have a babysitter? What if I need financial help to eliminate those moments of despair?” If you are having boyfriend or girlfriend challenges, reevaluate the importance of those relationships as a benefit or a distraction.
  2. Believe it. There are many people that will believe in you, but believing in yourself is the ultimate step for success. You must envision your role as a nurse before you get there! Self-doubt is our biggest enemy. No need to gain the belief from others regarding your abilities. Be confident, and never depend on the opinions of others. 
  3. Evaluate Your Personality. Nursing takes on a unique personality trait as you must be able to adapt your personality to the situations and patients for whom you are caring. You must LOVE people and discard biased opinions regarding race, religion, culture, or sexual identity from your mindset. When you walk into a patient’s room, the nurse sets the atmosphere for the day. Use your winning smile and positive attitude to help the healing process. 
  4. Starting Your Journey. The best resources for gathering information about admission requirements and curriculum guidance for nursing school are practicing nurses, nursing instructors, and high school or college counselors. Research and compare a variety of nursing schools and programs. It is extremely important that the program you choose is fully accredited. As an accredited program, the school has passed a demanding set of standards for providing quality education. Check your state board’s registered nursing website for comparisons. 
  5. Evaluate your “Village.” Your village is the people closest to you. They are your most valuable asset while in the nursing program. My village was my mom, aunts, uncles, and cousins. As a single parent throughout nursing school, I needed the comfort of knowing that my child was properly cared for in order for me to focus on and succeed in my education. Also, be sure to identify key players before starting your education. Choose wisely, and ensure your selection is the best selection!

As you navigate your pathway towards success know that all great things require discipline, initiative, careful planning and execution. There may be times when you feel that you are not capable; but I am here to tell you that you can achieve your goal of becoming a nurse! Stay in the game and do not allow any obstacle to get in your way of success!

How can we change tomorrow for today? I would love to hear your feedback on this subject matter. Follow me on Facebook and IG @The Only Nurse Mona!

Get your copy of From Student to Nurse @

Mona Clayton, MSN, RN (The Only Nurse Mona) is an author, mentor, motivational speaker, and transformational coach. She is also the CEO of (The Nurses Pub Foundation), a non-profit with a mission to inspire, empower, and develop a global community of future nurses.

Published by The Only Nurse Mona

An inspirational speaker, author, mentor and transformational coach for nurses and students, Mona has been featured in “Black Enterprise Magazine,” “Working Nurse Magazine,” “The Los Angeles Sentinel Newspaper,” “Los Angeles Wave Newspaper,” “Our Weekly Newspaper,” “Minority Nurse Magazine,” “The University of Phoenix Buzz, ”Grand Canyon University Today” and the University of Phoenix Center for Health and Nursing Research Magazine. An inspirational speaker, author, mentor and transformational coach for nurses and students. Recipient of Nurse of the Year for Los Angeles County Healthcare System; Mayor's Recognition Award; Mayor's Commendation Recognition Award; National "Super Phoenix" for University of Phoenix; Finalist for the Health Care Leadership Award by the "Los Angeles Business Journal,” Distinguished Alumni Award for University of Phoenix Southern California (Selected 1 of 12 out of 92,000) alumni in 2017 and in 2018, nominated for the Leadership Impact Award, the (Top 3) alumni from University of Phoenix Southern California. Mona holds a Master's in Nursing Education and is the Founder and CEO of The Nurses Pub Non-profit organization which helps to bring awareness and assistance for developing future nurses globally.

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