There is a specific path that the vast majority of nursing students take in order to reach their ultimate goal of becoming a registered nurse at a healthcare facility. For a very select few, however, the path that is taken toward that goal is an unconventional one.
Such was the path taken by Melinda Ellis, a 25-year-old nursing school graduate who recently “earned her stripes” by completing her nursing education at a university in Radford, Virginia. Even before receiving her pin for graduating from nursing school, Ellis had accepted a position as an oncology nurse at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital where she has been working for the last five years in a nurse’s assistant capacity.
When Ellis was 16, however, a family tragedy forced her to be moved into a children’s group home where she received support from a variety of social agencies but was essentially forced to “grow up a lot faster than other kids [her] age.” The situation she was forced into made Ellis feel as though she had no choice but to succeed in life which is what she says pushed her to keep going despite her challenging circumstances. She had to become independent at a much earlier age than most American adolescents but found particularly helpful support in two social workers who began working with her as soon as she was moved into the children’s group home.
After persevering through what her social workers describe as “trauma and crisis and personal situations that no one should have to go through”, Ellis graduated from high school and took a job as a nurse’s assistant at Roanoke Memorial just to have a job but without any prior training in the field of nursing. There she developed a love for nursing in general and for oncology in particular. It wasn’t long before she enrolled in a nursing program at a local university and was on her way to not only graduating but also becoming one of five graduates in her class to earn an award for excellence in nursing and academics.