Augusta, Ga. – Two first-year nursing students from Georgia Regents University were named winners in an essay contest by New Careers in Nursing, an initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing to expand enrollment in schools of nursing while enhancing diversity in the nursing workforce.
Mahlique Mathis, 23, of Decatur, and Leslie Stembridge, 27, of Sparta, answered the prompt, “I believe this about nursing” for their personal essays. Both are recipients of prestigious Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Scholarships, which supports students in the GRU College of Nursing Master of Science in Nursing Clinical Nurse Leaders Program. The accelerated master’s degree program targets students with undergraduate degrees in other disciplines. Many enter the program to pursue nursing as a second-career option, while others enter soon after completing their undergraduate degrees in science or other health-related disciplines.
Such was the case for Mathis. “It’s a women-dominated field but there are patients who prefer male nurses. I’m all about giving the patient a choice,” said Mathis, who added that the opportunity to diversify nursing inspired him to pursue the degree program.
“Many may not consider the nursing field because they seldom see people who look like themselves,” Mathis wrote in his essay. “By working to diversify nursing we are able to portray that anyone with the passion, willingness, and stellar work ethic can pursue a career in nursing despite race, gender, etc.”
Mathis originally thought he wanted to be a doctor, but watching how nurses cared for his great aunt before her death in 2007 changed his mind.
“Even in high school, I knew I wanted to be in the health care field. I knew I really wanted to have an impact on the world,” he said. “I realized nurses are constantly there. They were always checking on my great aunt.”
Stembridge’s journey to nursing was a little longer. In her essay, she wrote about her grandmother’s diagnosis of advanced Alzheimer’s disease. Stembridge stayed home for two years after getting her undergraduate degree to help care for her grandmother by cooking, cleaning, and administering medications. The experience underscored her commitment to caring for all individuals, not as patients, but as family.
“People want to have a sense of relief leaving their loved ones in the hospital and I want to be that person that will assure them that their loved one is in great hands,” she wrote.
It was bittersweet to head back to school this fall, but Stembridge said she was committed to the field.
“We made arrangements with home health. I was in tears. My grandma said, ‘It’s okay. Go off to school so you can come back and take good care of me.’”