USF Bull Nurse and Mom of Three Working Toward Masters Degree and Disney Cruise
A picture of a Disney Cruise ship sits on Melissa Douglas’s refrigerator as the ultimate symbol – a graduation gift to celebrate the long road to becoming a nurse practitioner while also marking the beginning of her next journey.
Her path to getting her master’s degree in nursing at the University of South Florida’s College of Nursing has been winding – filled with missteps, side steps, family sacrifices, and at times, included squeezing 12-hour hospital shifts to help with the family’s bills.
To be sure, Melissa knows firsthand how juggling class schedules, part-time work and raising young children don’t always mix.
“Life is crazy being a mom, wife, and graduate student,” said Douglas, a mother of three. “Most days I wonder why I am doing this. Then I remind myself, when I look at my photos on the walls, interact with my children, and think about my goal 11 years ago of becoming a nurse practitioner.”
Douglas, who received her bachelor’s degree in nursing from USF in 2016, wasn’t always a fan of school.
As a teen in Canada, her brothers teased her for skipping classes and disliking school. “They would tell me how I wouldn’t go anywhere if I continued to neglect my education,” she said.
At age 17, she dropped out of high school and moved to Florida with a friend. She soon realized not having family nearby or a high school diploma made life difficult. Douglas got her G.E.D. and started taking nursing classes and earned an associate’s degree in nursing from Seminole State College.
“Out of my family of six, I am the only one to have achieved a college degree. My parents did not complete high school; my three siblings did,” she said.
Douglas worked as a registered nurse for 10 years. During that time, she saw life’s upheavals sway between divorce, her father’s suicide, a second marriage, and children. In 2014, she decided to jump back into student life again to pursue her bachelor’s degree at USF.
“[My husband and three children] were my drive to complete my BS (in nursing) after being out of school for seven years,” she said. “It was difficult after having our daughter in July 2015, but I got through it.”
When she graduated with her bachelor’s in 2016, she was determined not to let any time pass before diving into her next academic challenge. “Since I was already in school completing my BS (in nursing), I figured I’d better keep going,” she said, “[rather than] chance not returning for another seven years, or worse, not returning at all.”
This past March, she finally had to give up a one-day-a-week nursing job as a labor and delivery nurse at Winnie Palmer Hospital in Orlando to focus on finishing her master’s degree.
“With the three children, my husband, his work schedules and my school, I had to cut something out and I couldn’t cut out the children, my husband, his work or my school after coming so far, so it was the only choice if I wanted to continue to pursue my MS (in nursing).”
Juggling graduate classes and family means Douglas pencils in “family time” into her calendar and stays up late after the kids are asleep to read and complete assignments.
Douglas is set to graduate in Spring 2019 and plans to set sail on that family Disney cruise and the next chapter in her life soon after.
Story by Nicholas Orlando, USF College of Nursing
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