Michelle Gomez's story exemplifies perseverance and determination. She dropped out of high school in the 10th grade after becoming pregnant and had two children by the age of 19. She had her detractors. Many people told her, "You'll never be anything."
Today, Gomez has an MBA, MSN, BSN, RN license and a Nurse Executive board certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center, but it was a long, hard road achieving that success.
"When my mom went on to be an accountant at Clorox, after having me at the age of 16, she showed me and my sisters that you could do anything as long as you worked hard enough for it," she said. "So, I started the pre-requisites for my nursing degree at the age of 17. I always wanted to be a nurse because my grandmother was a nurse. My grandmother told me that she could not leave nursing without a replacement. I knew I would fulfill that for her."
When Gomez earned her ADN in 1995, she stepped in to fill the vacancy in the nursing profession her grandmother left when she retired.
"I always wanted to get my BSN, but by the time I graduated, I had a 5-year-old and a 4-year-old, and I was single," she said. "There was just no way to continue to go to school, and work, and take care of my children."
When she had the opportunity to enroll in UTA's online RN to BSN program in November of 2012, Gomez jumped at it.
"Life catches up with you," she said. "My manager at the time was actually finishing up her program at UTA, and she encouraged me to go back to school after I was promoted to supervisor. A bachelor's degree was required for me to continue with professional advancement."
Gomez looked on as her manager completed assignments at work and knew that the program could be done alongside a full-time job.
"It gave me some confidence and eased my concerns about whether it would be too much," she said. "I did not know what to expect, but after I saw my manager succeeding, the choice was a little bit easier to make.
"Also, the price was very affordable. It wasn't something that would put me into debt paying for the classes. My employer had a partnership that helped pay for UTA, which made the decision even easier."
In early March 2020, Gomez started a new job as the director of clinical services at United Surgical Partners International in Addison, Texas.
Get Into Gear
When Gomez looks back at her constant pursuit of education — not to mention all the letters she now has behind her name — she sees UTA's RN to BSN program as the catalyst.
"I took those 18 years off, and it was so hard to go back because I had so many other things that I was doing that I didn't know where I was going to fit it [studies] into my life," she said. "Once I had already devoted the time to it, I realized that I was not missing anything if I continued to go. It was easy for me to keep taking classes, one at a time, to continue on with all the degrees."
Gomez also credits UTA's RN to BSN program for helping her gain a thorough knowledge of the research and writing skills she would need to pursue higher degrees and promotions. She also learned a thing or two about time management.
"The program definitely gave me the core knowledge of how to do APA citations, but it also gave me confidence in my writing," she said. "It really helped me realize that I had the skill set to write. It helped me immensely as I have gone on to write Magnet documents, policies, pro formas and business reports."
One paper that stands out for Gomez in her development as a researcher and writer is the project she completed for NURS 4465: Care of Vulnerable Populations Across the Lifespan.
"My paper was on individuals in my neighborhood," she said. "In a one-block radius, we have a very high incidence of lupus. The petroleum and other chemical plants are only 10 or 12 streets away. So, I interviewed people in my neighborhood to see if there was any correlation between where we live — with the soot and chemicals that are on the cars every day — and the alarming number of people who have lupus in that area."
While Gomez has gone on to complete higher degrees at other institutions, she recently decided to return to the place where the second leg of her educational journey began by enrolling in UTA's Doctor of Nursing Practice online program.
…And Keep Going
Parents returning to school often hope to be an inspiration for their children, but Gomez says that it was actually the other way around.
"She inspired me. She's brilliant," said Gomez of her daughter Madeleine, who is currently working on her MPH/DNP at Johns Hopkins University. "She went to India on a mission trip over the summer to teach underprivileged children about health promotion, diabetes and hypertension so they could teach their parents."
Alongside Gomez on her educational and professional journey is her husband Robert, who has helped and supported her since he was her boyfriend.
"If I wasn't dating him, I don't know if I would have actually finished," she said. "He encouraged me to study. We worked the program together. He was helping me look up research, do citations and find articles. It was a labor of love together."
For Gomez, the most important part of building the momentum one needs to complete a series of advanced degrees is the initial push.
"Once you get started, you keep moving forward," she said. "In these eight-week classes, you always feel a sense of accomplishment, which gives you the stamina to keep going and going and going. It's actually hard if you try to take a break — even after two weeks. In two weeks, you have to either find something to do or have somewhere to go or you're going to be wanting to get back in it."
Nothing could stop Gomez, who believes that anybody can follow in her path.
"I did it working a full-time job as a manager over five departments on-call and with family responsibilities, so it can be done," she said. "You have to make the time for yourself to do it."
Learn more about Doctor of Nursing Practice Online.
- What to Expect in an Online DNP Program
- Why Should You Get a DNP?
- The Difference Between a Ph.D. and a DNP
- Job Options for a DNP Graduate
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