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Passion to Help Disenfranchised Leads to New Career in Nursing

Helping Others Motivates Nursing Student

April 19, 2013

When Graciela Stanley was growing up in Overland Park, Kan., and then in Costa Rica for 10 years, she never thought about a career in nursing, but she is glad that her life’s path has now brought her to MNU’s accelerated Bachelor of Science in nursing program (ABSN).

Stanley returned to the U.S. at 15 and graduated from Shawnee Mission South High School and then the University of Kansas with a degree in journalism in 2002. Her father is in the oil business, and her parents have lived in many places around the world. So with a multi-cultural background, right after college she began traveling the world as a backpacker and then came back to Kansas City, where she became a Spanish interpreter.

“I walked in to Truman Medical Center at the encouragement of a friend who said they needed interpreters. They gave me an assessment and I was working there a week later,” she said. “That was the first time I was exposed to a medical center. I hated hospitals before that, but I loved that job and worked full time as a medical interpreter there.”

The job took her all over the hospital. “I was in the maternity section, then down in the emergency room, then with someone receiving chemotherapy. It was a fast-paced and meaningful job.”

After that job she became an interpreter in a court setting, which had greater flexibility and more pay that also enabled her to travel. But she then began to think of a career change.  “As an interpreter you’re just a voice-box. Sometimes you want to be a greater part of what is going on, but you’re just there to facilitate.”

Nursing came to mind. “I never saw myself as a nurse previously, but I thought back to my time at Truman, and I also wanted a job that I could do anywhere in the world. My husband is French. I’ve been married a year and a half, and we’ll probably never stop moving. And nursing is a flexible job. You can do so much with it.”

Stanley, 33, speaks French also, making her a tri-lingual nursing student with perhaps an advantage in being hired where her language skills can be used. “I think the Spanish will definitely be an asset because of the demographics of America. The French will not be as useful, but the Spanish may give me a competitive edge. Just based on my personal experience, it does not seem like there are many Spanish-speaking nurses, and even fewer doctors.”

Stanley says she has a passion to serve disenfranchised people. “Especially those who have been forgotten or just don’t have the means to live the kind of life we have in developed countries,” she said. “I think traveling helped me develop that passion. I would be interested in working with Doctors Without Borders, or the Red Cross, or even Veterans Administration hospitals.”

The one-year accelerated nursing program has been academically challenging, but enjoyable, Stanley said. She began in January. “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’m learning a lot. I can’t believe how much I’ve learned.” The program is arranged in class modules every seven weeks. She is currently studying pharmacology, patho-physiology, Concepts of Care, and gerontology. She will have her first hospital rotation in May, and do a total of six clinical placements in the program.

She is not sure yet which nursing field she wants to pursue. “Labor and delivery, and ER sound interesting to me, but I’m not sure yet. I’m hoping my studies and experienced this year will help me decide.”

Stanley has also enjoyed meeting the varied students in her program. “They are such smart, competent, motivated people,” she said. “There are people from Africa, and from medical backgrounds, and I think there are about eight men out of the 47 students, and most people are doing this as a second career. They range in age from about 21 to about 52.”

Stanley is one of only a few MNU accelerated Bachelor of Science in nursing (ABSN) students this year to receive the $10,000 in a New Career in Nursing (NCIN) scholarship from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) at MNU. The scholarship exists to address the nationwide nursing shortage and promote diversity within the field. MNU is one of about 50 select institutions nationwide to receive the funding.

“That scholarship has been a godsend to help with tuition,” she said. “I am Hispanic, and the scholarships are given to help minorities get into the field.”

The funding supports students in the program who are traditionally underrepresented in the field of nursing. The NCIN Scholarship Program was launched in 2008 by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing to address the national nursing shortage, develop a diverse professional nursing workforce, and fuel the pipeline of nurse faculty and leaders.

For more information on MNU nursing programs, visit For information about RWJF-NCIN scholarships, see

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