Bettering Lives and Teaching Others to Do the Same—Dierdre’s MSN–Education Story

Dierdre de Gravina began her post-secondary education in 1990 at a small technical college in Quebec, Canada. Initially, she had been accepted into the Canadian Armed Forces as a pilot but was suddenly forced onto an alternative career path.

Dierdre crashed her motorcycle, leaving her unable to walk and unsure if she ever would again.

When she did regain her strength and was able to walk again, she felt lost and unsure of her career path. After taking an introductory nursing course, that uncertainty faded as she quickly fell in love with the field. Her decision to change careers has never been questioned and Dierdre says she still loves her job, 23 years later.

Her career has spanned most areas within the nursing profession. For the majority of her career, Dierdre “ran the floors” in the ER of both U.S. hospitals and facilities located in developing nations. She has worked in a perianesthesia care unit, a trauma intensive care unit, as a school nurse, and as a supervisor of a surgi-center and out-patient oncology clinic.

“For most of my career I have had only my RN degree and have been a missionary nurse for 20 of my 23 years,” said Dierdre, who now lives in Poseyville, Indiana.

With a desire to get off of the floors, slow down and teach future nursing professionals, Dierdre spoke with several online nursing schools but found none that was willing to work with her schedule and life—until she discovered WGU through an online search.

“My enrollment counselor was absolutely wonderful,” Dierdre explained. “She went above and beyond to help me. She worked with me to get out-of-country transcripts approved and helped me collect all that I needed to be accepted. She was always there to answer questions and had appropriate and helpful answers.”

Dierdre is currently working on her M.S. Nursing–Education degree at WGU. With a highly functional special-needs son, she has benefitted from WGU’s competency-based model, allowing her to complete schoolwork on her own schedule while she has helped her son complete cerebral retraining. Not having to follow a professor’s schedule has made it possible for Dierdre to continue working as a single mom and sole provider.

When asked what she loves most about her job, Dierdre said that although there are many aspects of being a nurse that she loves, her favorite is the way she is able to touch people’s lives in a way not many can.

“I love to be able to save a life, or help a family say goodbye to a life,” Dierdre said. “I love being able to help other nurses do the same. I recently was involved in an infant code that did not survive. I was able to help several new nurses be able to process what had happened, to process their feelings/emotions and answered all questions they had. I encouraged them not to give up and how to deal with such losses. It made me happy to be able to help even in such a sad situation.”

Earning a master’s degree has been very important to her. “I was never the smartest in my family and didn't think that I could ever get an advanced degree. WGU is showing me that I am smarter than I thought and that getting an advanced degree is not as impossible as some say it is.”

Dierdre currently works in the ER of a small community hospital dealing with codes, and looks forward to the day she can become an educator.

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