Tell us a little bit about yourself
My name is Andrea Robinson. I’ve been married for the last 8 years to my best-friend since we were 10 years old. We are raising 4 children together while I’m pursuing my Nurse practitioner degree. On June 8, I will have been a Registered Nurse (RN) for 18 years. I’ve always had a passion for healthcare and helping people. In middle school I was in the HOSA (Health Occupations Services of America) program followed by the Medical Sciences Program for Nursing in high school which allowed me to become an LPN a week prior to graduation. My aunt, also an LPN, encouraged me to go for my Bachelors.
I moved to South Carolina from South Florida at 17 years old and obtained my Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing from South Carolina State University – Go Bulldogs! I began college as a premed student. I was doing well but couldn’t afford to continue. I’m a first-generation college student. No one in my family had any idea of how much college cost. Being an out of state student with mounting school and living expenses was too much, even with a scholarship. I decided to forego medical school and pursue nursing. I am not upset that I did that. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
What made you choose NP?
Five years into my nursing career, a post-op thyroidectomy was not doing well. The nurse who was caring for her needed a hand, so I stepped in. There came a point where she was between life and death and I was able to keep her stable until the surgeon arrived. I was nervous because a lot of what had been done was without a physician’s consent and could’ve gotten me in a lot of trouble. But when he saw the orders I had placed and what had been done for the patient, he came to me and said – “why are you a nurse? You have so much more potential inside of you. You should have been a doctor.” It was both offensive and a compliment. I love my job as a nurse and didn’t see it as an inferior position. I take my profession very seriously. He then suggested that I look into becoming a nurse practitioner. That was the first person to ever put that thought into my head. Life happened and I put it on the back-burner, but it was always there.
What made you decide to go back to school now, after nearly 17 years?
My husband was the driving force behind me going back. He could see my passion and knew that I wanted to go back to school. I believe my previous husband had a fear of me being more successful than he was, so going back to school was always an issue. But my current husband has been a huge supporter of mine. He was adamant that I follow my passion so I told him that I would look into it. When he brought it back up a few months later, I had already been accepted a week prior. He didn’t know about the application or interview process. (I had not told him about it because there were so many personal issues going on in our family that took precedence and so I put it off.) Also my aunt (mentioned earlier) was a huge motivator for me. If she – at over the age of 60 – could go back to school and accomplish this, then I have no excuse. The next generation had to do better. So now I’m going after my Master’s.
Side Note – I’m a huge advocate for education and have always considered it my exit strategy. I believe that no matter what happens in life, no one can take your education from you.
I grew up poor and in the projects. Most girls were pregnant and/or already mothers by the time we were in the 12th grade. So the fact that I had not only graduated high school but would be going to college was huge. Myself and the only other graduate from our neighborhood received scholarships from our housing development.
What are the challenges you have faced on your NP journey?
I failed women’s health, this is my second time taking the course. I was diagnosed with a women’s cancer ( I don’t really like to talk about it. I lost my sister to cancer only 2 short years ago so it’s still very fresh and hard to deal with. Trying to get through women’s health while going through tests and diagnosis then surgery and recovery was a bit much and unfortunately emotionally and physically I could not keep it together). Sitting through those lectures and learning about a condition that I had just been diagnosed with was overwhelming for me. I didn’t share my struggles with the faculty because I was taught to leave my personal life outside of work/school. That was to my detriment because I ended up not doing well. I didn’t let that stop me though. I finally shared my struggles with faculty members and decided to take a year off. I used that time to go through treatment, surgery, counseling and just heal. Now here I am, a NP graduate as of September 2019.
Tell me the importance of a support system for you?
I think the most important part of having a support system is having someone there to hold you accountable. You have those individuals there to remind you of what you said you were going to be and going to do. A constant reminder of your goals.
Could you do it without a support system?
Yes, but I think it’s easier to do with one. When my kids hear that mommy made the dean’s list or see me studying at the dinner table, it motivates them to do the same. My oldest who is now a 15yo freshman in high school, says that the only reason he is on the honor roll is because he refuses to let me out do him. That’s another reason for me to keep pushing and get to the end of the road. It’s just as much encouragement for them as it is for me.
How do you manage being a wife, mom, student and employee?
It’s very hard. Being a mother is probably the most challenging thing I have ever done in my life. Being a mother of a blended family has been one of my greatest rewards. And I say that because it was hard for me being a single mom of two boys (I left previous marriage with my 2nd son in utero) for several years. My second husband came along with 2 kids of his own and they have been a real blessing to all of our lives bringing such fulfillment. It’s so hard because you want to be there for everything but that’s not possible. Sometimes I feel like such a horrible mother because I’m not able to be present at all of the games, shows or PTA meetings. There are a lot of sacrifices involved. I’m married to a preacher and have missed so many church services it’s unreal. But he understands and I’m grateful for the support. My mother and sisters are all very supportive but my husband really holds it down. If I ever fail an exam or things don’t go well, he is the first one to say “Honey I know you, you’re really smart and you got this.” I do this for me but I also do it for them, they keep me motivated.
What effect has the changes had on your family?
Positive, but a huge adjustment at first. Especially for my 7yo. He didn’t understand and would cry a lot. I normally walk him to school every morning but that changed, once classes began I would be gone before he even woke up. The older children took on the role of responsibility of helping him to understand what I was doing and why. My husband also had to adjust. He was used to me taking care of home but now sometimes he has to make dinner, do laundry, get the kids ready, etc. I tried to be supermom at first while balancing work and school. But it didn’t work – I almost had a nervous breakdown. I had to figure out how to find that balance and make the changes needed for the little time that I would be in school. I would say it took roughly 9 months for everyone to fully adjust.
What does a Typical Day look like for you?
Any advice for the families worried about the financial burden of pursuing a graduate degree?
There was a point in time that I stopped working. My husband says it wasn’t an issue, but I felt that taking care of a family of 6 was too much for him on his own. I went back to work part time and eventually found my way back to full time. To other families out there worried about the financial burden of returning to school I would say, find a way to make it happen. Prior to school I worked a salaried position, M-F from 8am-5pm. Going back to school meant 12hr shifts and weekends. But I did what I had to do because school is temporary. What I’m doing now will be better for myself and my family in the future. If I can sacrifice for 2yrs then we will be alright.
Do you have any words of encouragement, advice or caution to other student moms?
Encouragement – Never ever let anything stop you from pursuing your education. Everyone’s journey is different. The paths we take are all for our good, no matter how it seems. Sometimes we have to go through negative things to make us get off of our butts – But it makes you realize that this career is what you are meant for.
Advice – Don’t downplay what you are capable of
Caution – Don’t let anybody else stop you from reaching your goals
What would you say to the prospective applicant who is a mom hesitating to apply due to her
responsibilities at home?
Follow your heart! Find a way to make it happen even if that means taking a slower route. You may not be able to take a full load but start somewhere. Get a good support system or accountability partner or even a good study buddy. That will help you a lot. Set goals, doesn’t have to be major. Your first goal can just be looking into schools. Just start somewhere. Don’t give up!