My Personal Experiences Prior To Attending The LVN Program

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    This article is filled with memories, reflections, and ramblings regarding the events that prompted me to attend a school of vocational nursing (a.k.a. LVN program).

    First of all, I will provide a little background information to enable readers to paint a mental picture. I had been accepted to three regional state universities during my senior year of high school, but was unable to attend due to a lack of finances combined with my parents' refusal to cosign for any student loans. Therefore, I basically worked a string of dead-end jobs during the five years that elapsed after my high school graduation. My resume included workplaces places such as McDonald's, the 99 Cent Store, Target, two grocery stores, and a group home that housed six developmentally disabled adults.

    I completed a medical assistant program when I was 19 years old, but my training never resulted in a job in the medical field. I also attended community college for one year, but found the environment to be childish and alienating. In addition, I was struggling to pay for classes, books, and transportation with the low-wage jobs that I had been working at the time.

    At the age of 20, I landed a job that seemed like the opportunity of a lifetime. A factory that had been owned by a Fortune 500 corporation offered me a position as an entry level technician. The starting pay rate was $12.95 hourly, which seemed like a great deal of money to me. After all, I had never earned more than $8 per hour during my entire life. Although the work was dirty, backbreaking, and very physical, I remained at this workplace for more than three years. After all, my pay gradually climbed to $15.21 hourly, and my employment options were severely limited without any education beyond high school.

    Three years into my stint at the factory, something happened that caused me to make a snap decision about where my future would be headed. My supervisor was really giving me problems on that day, and my manager was threatening to write me up. I felt somewhat mortified because, instead of discussing matters with me behind closed doors, they were broadcasting this information out in the open for others to hear.

    Suddenly, I decided that I would never return to this factory again. I was 23 years old, living on my own, and had enough money saved to survive for approximately one year. After consulting with a psychiatrist the next day, I went out on stress leave. During my time away from work, I applied for and was accepted into a 12-month LVN program at a private nonprofit school. Furthermore, I was pleased to discover that I had been approved for a career training loan through Sallie Mae to finance the tuition.

    Those 12 months of training were not easy. Since I was now unemployed, I lost my health insurance, so I had to attend school while contending with uncontrolled hyperthyroidism and other health problems. The school had a full-time schedule of five days per week. Three of those days were clinical shifts, and the other two days were spent in the classroom. In addition, I lived 95 miles away from the campus, so I was putting approximately 1,000 miles onto my little black Hyundai per week.

    However, the struggle was worth it in the end because I graduated from the LVN program in October 2005 and found a job within one week of receiving my temporary license. My worries about being limited in the employment market due to a lack of education beyond high school were over. Moreover, the LVN license enabled me some room for career mobility and the chance to further my education, because I ended up earning my RN license a few years later.

    I am now 31 years old, and although my educational path is filled with delays and detours, I still have no regrets. After all, I had to fight more than one uphill battle to get to where I am today.
    Last edit by Joe V on Aug 9, '12
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    About TheCommuter, BSN, RN

    TheCommuter is a moderator of and has varied experiences upon which to draw for her articles. She was an LPN/LVN for more than four years prior to becoming a registered nurse.

    Joined: Feb '05; Posts: 38,032; Likes: 69,341
    CRRN, now a case management RN; from US
    Specialty: Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych

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  3. by   triniminnie102
    Thanks for sharing your experience. I too went to community college two years ago and had uncontrolled hyperthyroidism and it was a problem waking up for class. I have insomnia and when I finally do sleep it is usually for 12 hours. No alarm clock could wake me up so I dropped out. Now i'm 21 and I've been accepted into an LPN program and i'm taking PTU meds for my thyroid disease so i'm very hopeful I will make it through.
  4. by   tothepointeLVN
    I think this shows not all snap decisions are bad it's when your mind after analyzing everything around you has come the correct conclusion all at once. 95 miles? Now I understand the name TheCommuter. I have coworkers that drive out from Palmdale to the OC and I don't know how they do it.
  5. by   parafreddy
    Hi TheCommuter,

    I just made an account and by chance I stumbled upon your post. I can honestly say that I'm somewhat in the same situation as you were.
    Back when I was in High School I aspired to be an accomplished cellist. My oldest brother who majored in music performance in piano was my inspiration. Simply put, I expressed through music-- now to think of it, I guess artistry does run in my family; my dad being a graphic artist, my second brother as a graphic artist (taught and trained by my dad), and my sister minoring in singing performance as well. Anyways..that's beside the point. haha

    It wasn't until my senior year in High School when reality struck me. I was accepted in several colleges (csu's and uc's, along with other private schools). Among them were my dream colleges, UC Berkeley and University of San Francisco. I honestly thought things were going well. Later on I found that I didn't qualify for the FAFSA (so long financial aid and other grants). My parents didn't want to cosign the student loan, but now to think of it, is worth being in 50K+ debt by the time you graduate? Not in my book. Whatever my major could've been if I wen that route. Mind you that we're in a the occupy movement right now...whatever you want to call it. Occupy Wallstreet..some people call it "College Student Debt" generation. I've read anicdotes and aricles with some students graduating with 150K+ student loan debt! *Phew*

    I was mad. I was angry. I was confused..and frustrated. I remeber locking myself in my room for hours crying, feeling alone and vulnerable. And frankly, jealous of all my friends going off to different places and the school they wanted to. After working my butt off in High School, taking AP and Honors Classes, taking several college coarses over the summers, and countless hours of community service (I'm not much of an adrenaline junky, nor am I into sports), and graduateing with "honors" and a 3.95, I thought I would be in the same situation as my friends.

    Over the next couple of months, my dad's diabetes unfortunately got worse. I was in charge of to checking his blood pressure, sugar levels, and adminster insulin shots after meals. To be quite honest, I didn't realize how serious his situation was until one day he finally cringed when after gave him a shot. "I'm tired of this, son"..with a sad and hurt tone in his voice. I still ask myself today if something in my dad, whether it's something physical or emotional, gave up. Something in him changed that day.. he only spoke when spoken to, always seemed distant and unattached. I still get a little teary when I see him in his "unconventional" manner..wishing he was in his cheeky, goofy, humrous self.

    My parents own a sign business. They've established a small business in 1989, able to make it to a big corporation throught the 90's and early 2000's, with 100 something workers. But over time when the economy got worse, they had to down size big time. Ulitmately, right now, what is left of their business which is now a humble family business, is just me, my parents, me second brother, and sister who helps occasionally when she doesn't have school..(she's an accounting/business she knows her way around the family business and numbers...she took the math gene from me! haha).

    After school since 5th grade through High School, I usually go to our humble shop to help out and manufacter the signs that needed to be made. My dad taught me how to work with signs, so overtime, arguably, I became a trained vynil/decal applicator. At the time I didn't complain much, because the sign business is our "baby"..we owe it everything, it put a roof over our head, food on our table, you get the picture. It was our OWN, and we didn't owe anyone. We were really proud and humble of it, especially in a bad economy where and when businesses were closing and houses were being forclosed left and right. Often it's depressing when I had to make several yard signs or banners that says "liquidation sale," "going out of business," or simply "forclosed."

    We have our quarrels every now and then. Sharing a smallish space with my family 5 days a week for 10-12 hours a day was something I didn't imagine myself in. Especially now that I've graduated in High School..imagining myself of to college. But inside me I knew this isn't what I wanted to do with my life. I wasn't business inclined nor "advertising-inclined." I was only here working because it's our family business. I wasn't growing personally. There's no outlet for me to express myself. Sometimes I blame my parents for things didn't "work out as planned.."
    ut hey, I'm ony 19, young, and I'm still somewhat trying to accpet that life isn't fair..some have to work for their goals, and some are lucky to have their lives sorted on a silver platter.

    But overtime I realize how my "disadvantages" can help me hone my path. I've reflected, and after the countless hours of community service, caring, and helping people, my dad, I've realized that I am most "alive" with servicing others. And I figured that I should work in the health care field. After doing many research, I decided to become and LVN and make my way up to become a rn, and hopefully become a nurse-anesthetist. That's the path I am in right now, and I'm working very hard to achieve my goals.
  6. by   nurse_amy
    Thanks Commuter for your story. I too went to Casa Loma and just finished their LVN program and look forward to going back to college for LVN to BSN next fall. Your articles and advice have assisted me to go into nursing via the LVN path. Slightly unorthodox and expensive yes, but living in So Cal, there are enormous waiting lists at local community colleges for RN, as I'm sure you well know. I have had people give me the cold shoulder and snub me once they find out that I'm an LVN...(from RNs mostly) and then you type up a few amazing articles which makes me feel a lot better about my decisions. I have met some wonderful people during my time @ Casa Loma which also solidified my reasoning. Although you are younger than me, I still look up to you as a role model and wish others had your positive attitude. Much respect...
  7. by   TheCommuter
    Quote from nurse_amy
    I too went to Casa Loma and just finished their LVN program and look forward to going back to college for LVN to BSN next fall.
    I also attended Casa Loma's LVN program at their Van Nuys campus back in 2005. I was living in Bakersfield at the time, and made the 95 mile trek into Van Nuys on Interstate 5 Monday through Friday. Can you imagine?

    I now look back and wonder how in the world I did it!
  8. by   nurse_amy
    Lol! I can't believe that you did! I lived in Santa Clarita for 12 years, so I know the 5 fwy well. And those horrible winter storms and closures? WOW!! By any means necessary!
  9. by   BrandonLPN
    Thanks for sharing, Commuter. My story was pretty similar. I was laid off from construction and also made a rather abrupt (yet well researched) decision to enter a for profit vocational PN program. A combination of state grants and Sallie Mae loans financed it. I
    researched who hired LPNs and got a full time job as a NA while in school. 11 months later I got hired as a GPN days after graduating. I worked my butt off and was debt free less than a year later. If I had went the BSN route I might STILL be in school working as a NA with MASSIVE loans looming in the distance. My wages now are comparable to many RNs I know. The LPN route DOES make sense if done right.....
  10. by   adventure780
    kudos to you, your story is very inspiring story
  11. by   Ambitiouz
    Thanks for sharing. Being able to look back on how you made it through is very gratifying. Your story reminds me of how I also faced a lot struggles in my educational journey. I spent 3 yrs working at fedex and a couple other dead end jobs. I realized that I needed some transferrable skills and nursing would provide that. I often wish I did the LPN route first, and I would have gone that route if my last attempt to getting into an associate RN program didnt work out.
  12. by   virgo,student nurse
    Commuter, Thank you for posting this story, It goes to show how hard work and determination can change ANY situation. It makes me feel good to know that it gets hard, but it is worth fighting for
  13. by   rosagee
    Thanks for the post. Its really encouraging to hear. I am also going the lpn to rn route.
  14. by   MedChica
    You sound like some of the folks in my nursing class. One girl used to commute from the Laredo area to San Antonio...every single day.
    Now that is some dedication!
    I could not imagine having to do that.

    I like to hear stories like this. Plenty of people have to put up with serious adversity to make something out of themselves. It's inspirational.
    But you know...few people who are successful had it handed to them.
    You have to work for it. That separates the winners from the losers of life...because many (MANY) people are willing to just 'accept' the card that life gave them.
    You want to live up to your highest potential. So...I try. I've always told myself that I never wanted to look back as an old woman and regret.

    My path into nursing school wasn't difficult. I decided to switch majors and Go Nursing...becuase I miss the hospital. I miss the environement. It's all that I know and all that I want to do...honestly.
    I feel, like, the medical field is the one place where everyone's job counts. From the cooks in the cafeteria to the custodians who keep the area clean and smeling nice.
    It counts because you're all contributing to something great. Worthwhile. It's a higher purpose.
    Money? Yeah - I like it. But I would've made money regardless of what I choose. It just feels good to contribute to something greater than your SELF.
    So, I switched. It's more important to me to get my credentials to get on the floor ASAP...because it is experience that makes the healthcare professional. Not a bunch of degrees...and I say this as a GVN who will be pursing a BSN and higher. I respect those with degrees.
    However, those who know best? Know what I mean...and they know that I'm not lying.

    So, I was slapped on a waiting list and I went to a vocational school FT.
    I worked FT. Sometimes over 40. I'd get these crazy ideas that I'd never make it out of school, but here I am. My instructor pulled me to the side one day, "I know that it's been rough for you...but you'll do well. I can spot talent. You're going to make a great nurse!"
    This was a very experienced ER nurse (which is where I eventually want to work). So, any kind of praise coming from her? Meant a lot. So, my mood instantly disappeared and I was floating on air the rest of the week.
    Now, I'm out of school and looking to take NCLEX.
    I don't know. When you accomplish a life goal? It just feels good.

    Some of my classmates had a way tougher road. Losing jobs...losing cars...working FT and having babies to feed...trying to get through school while food to eat...a loved one with cancer
    I've said this before on here, but 1 of classmates was homeless.
    We didn't even know until the last semester. My heart was so full.
    No way in heck would I have let that girl sleep in her car had I known. I'm not the only one in my former class who would've extended a room in my home, either.
    But I understand why she said nothing. I wouldn't have said anything, either. Stubbornly, I still wish that she had. She didn't have to live like that.
    Another girl, we would buy her food because she had nothing to eat and no money to buy anything. How'd we find out? She 'fell out' at clinicals.
    ...but they all MADE IT!
    I'm so happy for them.
    When there is a will...there is a way. I've found that when people get good and determined? They'll
    make a way out of 'no way'.