Volunteer Experience Leads to Nursing School

By Melinda (Ablard ’90) Smith
August 18, 2014
Matt Tucker icon

Matthew Tucker couldn’t have known that a volunteer job at a Kansas City children’s hospital would end up cementing a big change in his future career path—especially since he already had a successful job in the business world.

But what he and others at Children’s Mercy Hospital came to realize was that Tucker had a way with sick children.

“At CMH, I became one of very few males who worked as a Child Life Specialist, and it was quickly being noticed by registered nurses and other staff that I had an innate ability to connect with patients,” he says of his year and a half at the hospital. “During this time, they encouraged me to pursue a career in nursing.”

So he did. And that pursuit led him to MidAmerica Nazarene University, where he is now a student in the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in nursing (ABSN) program. Since he already has a bachelor’s degree, through this program, he will be able to earn a nursing degree in just one year. He also has been awarded a one-time $10,000 scholarship by the university through a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: New Careers in Nursing (RWJF NCIN) program. The scholarship is awarded to select ABSN applicants who are from a population underrepresented in the nursing field, traditionally men and minorities, or students who have significant financial need.

Tucker has always had a passion to serve others, often volunteering with area organizations that help the homeless and those suffering with AIDS.

And although he has a degree in business management and worked as a business analyst for three years, he says he had yet to discover his life’s calling until his experience at Children’s Mercy. There he saw how few male nurses were on staff and how great an impact the ones who were there had on patients. He wanted to be one of those nurses and make that kind of difference.

“As I saw the positive impact I had with kids, from outpatient surgery cases to kids who would never make it home, I began to feel as though I was living the purposeful life I had set out to attain,” Tucker says.

Some might have discounted Tucker early on. His father grew up in poverty and joined the military, and his mother barely made it through an alternative high school, he says. But he overcame the obstacles to become the first in his family to earn a degree—and now he is working to complete another. And his parents support his decision 100 percent. In fact, Tucker says they are his inspiration, always encouraging him to chase his dreams.

“I have accomplished this not by going on others’ paths, but by creating my own,” Tucker says. “Despite my hardships and financial setbacks, I set out on my own to explore a territory that was unknown to my family.”

Although Tucker doesn’t have specific plans to work at a children’s hospital after he graduates from MNU, his heart and mind are not far from where he began his journey.

“My main focus is critical care,” he says, “but I hope it leads me back to pediatrics.”

MidAmerica Nazarene University has received the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: New Careers in Nursing (RWJF NCIN) grant the past six years and uses the money to fund Accelerated Bachelor of Science in nursing scholarships. Over the years, the school has awarded 45 NCIN scholarships. The goal of the RWJF grant is to help alleviate the nursing shortage, to diversify the workplace and to bolster faculty and leadership.