• July 23, 2024

Houston Woman Overcomes Challenges to Fulfill Nursing Dreams

 Houston Woman Overcomes Challenges to Fulfill Nursing Dreams

Photo submitted: LaShawn Pursley-Huey – Photo credit: Meilin Hyde

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Empower Magazine shines the spotlight on Dr. LaShawn Pursley-Huey in an up-close Q&A on her journey in healthcare. Dr. Pursley-Huey is a doctoral prepared Advanced Practice Registered Nurse who works as an Educator at Memorial Hermann Hospital in the Texas Medical Center and is a clinical instructor at Chamberlain and the University of St. Thomas School of Nursing. She is strong advocate for the nursing field and Founder of the Sneakers to Heels Mentor Program.

Growing up, what was your childhood dream?

I find that many people who pursue a career in healthcare initially found interest in becoming a doctor. I attribute that to the “doctor” title being something that we are all familiar with because the doctor helps us to feel better when we were sick. As a child growing up, I also dreamed of becoming a doctor, but as an adult I was exposed to nursing, and I quickly took an interest in becoming a nurse because of the compassionate care and trusting relationships established when patients are under the care of a nurse.

What inspired you to pursue a career in the healthcare field?

I would say what inspired me to pursue a career in nursing would be the desire to help others, a passion for healthcare, and personal experiences with nurses who have made a significant impact on the lives of their patients. At the start of my health care career as a nursing assistant, I witnessed firsthand the compassionate care nurses provided, their dedication and skill. I would often have nurses encourage me to pursue the profession because they believed I could become a great nurse. I believe that these factors contributed greatly to my decision to pursue a nursing career.

Describe your most fulfilling achievement and your greatest challenge in the field?

I would say that my most fulfilling professional achievement was obtaining a doctoral degree in 2022. Though I did not choose to become a medical doctor, I pursued a doctoral degree in nursing which represents that I have obtained the highest level of education and expertise in the nursing profession. Despite this being very challenging, it is something that I am very proud of accomplishing.

I would say that my greatest challenge when obtaining a doctoral degree in nursing was managing and balancing my time. I found my commitments to work, family and being a full-time student in a doctoral program in nursing to be very demanding. I was able to embrace a positive attitude towards my responsibilities and remind myself often why I was pursuing this path. I learned to become organized, develop a schedule, build a strong support system, and to make time for self-care. I attribute finding my strength and discipline as the key elements to helping me to successfully navigate through this educational journey.

I would say that my most fulfilling personal achievement was founding the Sneakers to Heels Mentor Program. This mentor program seeks to provide guidance and support for individuals interested in entering nursing and/ or education. We accomplish this by pairing mentees with nurse and educator mentors, hosting networking events with other professionals to broaden the mentees’ understanding of their desired profession, helping mentees set clear, achievable goals related to their career interest and by celebrating the milestones and achievements of mentees and mentors along the way.

I would say the greatest challenges being a new organization are mentee commitment, obtaining consistent and ongoing funding, spreading the word about the great work that the Sneakers to Heels Mentor Program is doing in the community.  Our organization is committed to overcoming these challenges by building a strong foundation through growing involvement, careful planning, goal setting, effective communication, and a commitment to acquiring adequate resources through fundraising.

What personal traits do you possess that empowered you to achieve your educational and career goals?

The key personal traits that I possess that can contribute to my success would be that I am disciplined, resilient, and goal oriented. I have an innate hunger for knowledge, and I am always actively seeking opportunities for self-improvement and growth.  It is my belief that my professional and academic journey speaks to my tenacity.  I worked as a PCT or nursing assistant for 12 years. I obtained my family’s first associate’s degree in 2000. I immediately went to nursing school and graduated with an associate degree in nursing in 2003. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 2008. I graduated with a master’s degree in 2018 and lastly, I graduated with a doctoral degree in nursing practice in 2022. I have been on this academic journey for quite some time, and I would consider this my life’s work. I consider my success a testament to staying the course.

How did you maintain your focus on obtaining your educational and career goals while raising your children and caring for your family?

Balancing school while being a committed mom and wife required patience, organization, and a willingness to adapt to any situation that arose. I must admit it was the unwavering support of my family, particularly my husband, that ensured that I was able to navigate both roles and achieve academic success. He provided encouragement and support in every aspect, and he created an environment where I could thrive personally and professionally. Being a first-generation college student it was important to me that my children witnessed my success and to understood that anything is possible.

Was there ever a point when you felt like giving up on your goals?

I felt like giving up time and time again. Growing up I had childhood ADHD and math anxiety, which in my early adulthood made some of my college courses very challenging for me. I ended up taking some classes multiple times before I was able to successfully pass. As an adult I learned how to develop effective coping strategies, establish routines to provide structure, create study environments with minimal distractions, tackle assignments systematically and I learned to be patient with yourself. I celebrated the small victories and those small wins eventually turned into major achievements as I obtained multiple degrees.

What inspired you to launch the Sneakers to Heels Mentor Program?

Going through nursing school myself, I can relate to how challenging it can be, but I am also aware of the positive impact that having the right support can have on ensuring success. Sneakers to Heels Mentor Program was created with those two things in mind, connecting students and potential students with mentors working in their perspective careers. Having a mentor increases a student’s chances of success and can help students to avoid the many pitfalls they could endure along their academic journey. The mentors of the Sneakers to Heels Program are committed to giving back by providing support and mentorship to those who need us most.

Describe the impact the organization has had since its launch.

Since its launch in 2020, Sneakers to Heels has gained over 100 members. The mentor program has played a pivotal role in supporting many nursing and education students as they navigate their way through applying for college, getting accepted in a program, completing the program, graduating and landing a job. We are here to support the mentee every step of the way. We have had 5 mentees successfully graduate from college, and of the 5, 3 have returned to mentor other students.

Is there a particular student success story that stands out most for you?

Yes, on August 27th, 2022, Sneakers to Heels had a networking luncheon where one of the mentees voiced that she was struggling with a class in nursing school. We all stood and shared our personal stories of overcoming adversity. We shared tears with the mentee, but they were tears of hope. It was such a proud moment when that mentee on April 4th, 2023, shared a photo of her cap and gown and the announcement of her graduation in May. This was an example of the power of the mentee and mentor relationship, and it motivated us to keep doing what we are doing, which is making an impact one student at a time.

Where do you see your organization in the next 5 years in terms of its impact?

In five years, the nursing mentor program aims to be a well-established, respected initiative known for fostering meaningful mentor-mentee relationships in the community. We are now and plan to continue contributing significantly to the professional growth of aspiring nurses and educators. It is our belief that by focusing on continuous improvement, community building, and sustainability, the program can become a model for mentorship.

Plans include expanding recruitment efforts to include more mentors and mentees, leveraging partnerships with nursing schools, healthcare organizations, and community groups, securing sustainable funding sources through grants, sponsorships, and partnerships to ensure the program’s longevity and stability and lastly, to expand the program’s reach to include diverse geographical areas and underrepresented communities, ensuring accessibility for all interested participants.

How can students find out more about your organization and its services?

Contact Info: Please visit our Facebook page at the link below, like and follow.


Organization Email: sneakerstoheels@yahoo.com

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