"I found out I was pregnant the same day that I got accepted [into my master's program]," she said. "I was in school for my whole pregnancy, then had a newborn baby."
She said she made it through the program with the constant support of her family, as well as a lot of hard work. Then, when she went back to school again for her post-master's study program, she was pregnant. Again.
"There's something about pregnancy and school for me," she said with a laugh.
While it was a lot to juggle, Cynthia insists that balancing school and work with motherhood is not an impossible feat.
"Having a family is not a problem," she said. "It's about having a family to support you through it. If you have everyone on board, then the obstacles will not hinder you. I had all hands on deck."
Making a Difference
The idea of family is linked to Cynthia's career in more ways than one. Her passion for pursuing healthcare was largely inspired by an event that deeply effected her and her loved ones.
"Most [nurses] have had some early-on exposure to healthcare, either through a family member's experience or being a patient," she said. "You see something that makes you say, 'I want to make a difference.'"
For Cynthia, that moment was the tragic loss of her 17-year-old brother, who died in a car accident when she was in high school.
"Seeing that whole process [of my brother's care], even though the outcome wasn't good, made me want to be in healthcare."
Ultimately, the path Cynthia chose was nursing. She saw it as a path to endless possibilities for making a difference.
"I felt like nursing was a good fit because I could change specialties. The flexibility and opportunity to work in so many different areas was a unique thing for me," she said.
Today, Cynthia has nearly 28 years of experience in nursing. She began working as an RN in 1988, then moved her way up to working as an advanced practice nurse in 1996. She began teaching in 2005, which she continues to do today as a faculty member for Ashworth College's RN to BSN program, while working as a nurse part-time.
As an educator, she brings her experience not only from her years at the bedside, but also from her time spent as an online student for her post-master certification.
"I love online education," she said. "It's a great opportunity for working nurses. It's the best of both worlds."
In her experience, the key to being a successful student while working and having a family comes down to two things—time management and buy-in from your support system.
"You have to be organized," she said. "Map everything out, make a calendar, and talk to your family members. You have to let them know that this is your goal, but that will make all of their lives better."
Having support from family members helps nursing students to be more successful, but it's also important to get buy-in from their employer.
"If your employer is on board, and they are paying for it or at least giving you the time to pursue your education, take advantage of that," she said.
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