As far back as I can remember there has never been a doubt in my mind that I should be in the healthcare field. Like so many other children I can recall telling my mother that I wanted to be a nurse and work in a hospital. I was never dissuaded from following my dream; my mother always encouraged me to do my best in life, and as a result I was the first person in my family of six to graduate from high school. I can recall her saying how proud she was on the first day I headed off to culinary arts school.
Why culinary arts? During my senior year I applied for several nursing programs, I was accepted at Essex County Community College and put on the waiting list at the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey. Shortly thereafter I found out that I was pregnant with my son Isaiah, and at that point I began to consider the time and focus it would take to enter into a nursing career. I didn’t feel as though I could handle the demands of school and being a single parent at the same time. The culinary arts program was short, food service jobs were plentiful, cooking had always been my hobby and I was great at it. Over the years I have worked mostly in nursing homes, acute care and rehabilitation hospitals as a dietary manager. The most enjoyable aspect of my job was being able to interact with the patients and their families on occasion.
Years later in 1992 my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer; and in late 1993 my mother was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. I was the primary caregiver to both my parents until they passed away in 1994. It is impossible to describe how painful it was to see both my parents die in so short a period of time. However the visiting nurses and hospital nursing staff made such a difference; the patience and compassion they showed my parents and family was extraordinary. I felt as though they truly understood what I was going through. The entire experience only reinforced my thoughts that I should be a nurse, but...
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