If Lauren Spinasanto’s story was made into a movie, it would have that devastating scene when you are sure she won’t make it – followed by a sequence where she picks herself up, gets back in the game and comes out as a champion.
From an early age, Lauren found herself heading in the direction of becoming a nurse. When she was younger, she helped care for her ailing great-grandparents. She’d also seen other family members struggle with medical issues and always tried to lend a hand.
“I just love helping people,” she said. “I do it without even knowing I’m doing it. It has always been my drive. I’ve had some medical stuff myself over the years. I feel I can relate to people and am a good listener. Nursing seemed like the right fit.”
And so she began her journey in the nursing program at a state school. There, she was required to maintain a certain test score average. All was going well – but then one semester, while struggling with a heavy course load, family difficulties and her own health problems, she missed that average by one percentage point in one class.
She was dismissed from the nursing program.
“It was pretty heartbreaking,” Lauren said. “After I found out they were removing me from the program, I sat down and started thinking what other career options I may be interested in, and there was absolutely nothing. Nursing is my passion and all I wanted to do.”
Compounding her heartbreak was the fact that many other local nursing programs, as a matter of policy, won’t accept a student who had been dismissed by another nursing program.
However, a friend of hers suggested she look into Chamberlain College of Nursing.
Addison campus president Jan Snow, PhD, MSN, MSN, RN, explained that at Chamberlain, they look at students like Lauren on a case-by-case basis.
“When we have students who apply to our program who are from other schools, I request a meeting with them,” she explained. “I like to meet them, talk though what the journey was like, what happened, and what they learned from what happened. Usually, I find a very motivated student, a very reflective student who’s thought about what’s happened to them and who has matured, yet they’re really resilient because they’re getting back up,” said Dr. Snow.
She found Lauren to be just that kind of student, and the committee decided to offer her admission. It was, without a doubt, the right decision.
“She embraced the program, got into it, and remained highly motivated throughout the program,” said Dr. Snow.
Lauren agreed. “Being given that second chance, I would make sure that nothing would stand in my way.”
Determined to succeed, Lauren took advantage of every resource she could. She frequented the Center for Academic Success (CAS), where she had access to peer tutors and professional nurse tutors who helped her with coursework and NCLEX preparation. She also turned to her professors, whom she described as “extremely helpful.”
All nursing programs are rigorous, Lauren said. “The difference was that at Chamberlain we had the resources to help us succeed. The faculty are open to being there with you and working with you to go over tests and explain where your thought processes aren’t fully connected. When they say they want you to succeed, they mean it.”
Acknowledging the gift that was the second chance, she also paid it forward, volunteering as a mentor to new nursing students.
“I was secretary and then president of CALM [Committee of Achievement, Learning and Mentoring], an organization that mentors incoming nursing students. It was a phenomenal experience for me because I remember starting nursing school and how overwhelming and bombarding it can feel. It was nice to have that one person you can talk to who’s been through all of it who can give you their advice or guide you or be your sounding board. Nobody understands your struggles and the stress you face except for those who have already been there and done it.”
In October 2013, just three years since the time when she thought she might never be a nurse, Lauren Spinasanto graduated from Chamberlain with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. She was pinned by Dr. Snow.
A few months later, she passed the NCLEX with just 75 questions – the minimum number of questions needed to prove her competence as a registered nurse.
Today, Lauren is an RN at a large Chicago area hospital. She works primarily on a medical psychiatric unit and has been floating to trauma. “I’m getting a little of everything, which is phenomenal,” she said.
“I don’t have a day when I don’t want to go to work. I really love going to work, getting to know new patients and also those days when I get to continue working with the same patient. I can honestly say nursing is the right fit for me.”
Looking back on her journey, she says that, “In my two years at Chamberlain, I met a lot of people, did a lot within the community, did great academically. Overall, it was a very rewarding experience.”
By Danielle Logacho
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