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Mastering Life in the U.S.

GladysGladys never had interest in living in the United States, but when the Liberian civil war forced her husband to seek asylum in the U.S., everything changed. Two years passed before she and her three children were able to reunite with him in Minnesota.

“I thought when you get here [to the U.S.], there would be somewhere to go where you would get information and they would tell you what to do. But the first three months in America, I had no information. I didn’t know anything. We were just home.”

Gladys had worked as a nurse in Liberia, but she did not know how to begin her new life in Minnesota. The people she talked to thought her nursing credentials would not transfer. Then, she heard about the Nursing Assistant Training Program at the Institute, and she decided to begin her career in healthcare again. Unsurprisingly, Gladys was an excellent student. She so impressed the staff during her clinical at a long term care facility that they offered her a job there immediately after she was certified as a nursing assistant.

After working as a nursing assistant for some time, Gladys returned to the Institute to learn about her college options. When Gladys met Carol, the Medical Career Advancement Manager, she did not mention her previous training and experience as a nurse because she had already been discouraged by people who had mistakenly told her that her degree was not acceptable in this country. Carol, therefore, helped Gladys select a licensed practical nursing (LPN) program.

Gladys’ college plans were delayed by a difficult pregnancy, but when she and her child were well, she returned to school and completed the LPN program at Saint Paul College. She passed her nursing board exam and continued to work at the long term care facility where she had been working as a nursing assistant, but now as a nurse.

One day, Gladys received a call from a girlfriend she had attended school with in Liberia. The friend was living in Atlanta and working as a registered nurse. She encouraged Gladys to contact the Minnesota Board of Nursing to be certain that her degree from Liberia would not transfer. Gladys contacted the board and found that she needed to get copies of credentials; she quickly completed the paperwork. She then decided to work for two years as an LPN to “get a feel for nursing in America to see the difference between nursing here and back home.” When she felt prepared, Gladys took a month off of work to study for the registered nursing boards. She passed the exam and became a registered nurse (RN). Gladys started work as a RN at a nursing home. Later, Gladys found a position on the medical/behavioral unit of a hospital. Feeling she still had more to accomplish, Gladys decided to return to school for a Bachelor’s degree in nursing. Not stopping there, Gladys pursued a Master’s degree in Nursing Education. In May 2016, she completed her program.

Gladys continues to work as an RN at the hospital. Gladys was offered a teaching position in Saint Paul College’s Practical Nursing department. She will begin teaching as a clinical instructor in fall semester 2016.

When Gladys reflects on the training and counseling she received at the Institute, she says, “I started at the Institute, and it opened a big window. …I started moving forward and looking higher up.” The Institute assisted Gladys with her first steps and offered support along her journey, it was her intelligence, ambition, and strength that propelled her forward to her success.