Nurse of The Month: Shena Joseph

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Hi, I'm Tanya!

I started the year out with a goal to highlight Nurses I admired every month. If I can be honest, I was scared to death because I didn’t know how you guys would have received it and the process of getting the Nurses to agree to do such a thing gave me anxiety. After all the self-doubt I did it; I made the decision and I was determined to highlight some fabulous people in the Nursing profession and now I’m pleased that I made it this far.

This month’s feature is someone from my home country (Antigua). I have been trying to get this particular individual to be featured since my second feature but we both had conflicts with our schedules and I am a firm believer that nothing happens before its time so the time was right and here we are. This month’s feature is Shena Joseph.

Shena was born in the US but grew up in Antigua and attended The Christ The King High School which is one of the most prestigious high school in Antigua, the other one being the Antigua Girls’ High school which I attended and we were seen as rivals lol. This interview was a bit different from my usual emailing interview, this interview was a phone conversation.


How did you know Nursing was your calling?

Actually, I had no desire to be a nurse. I always wanted to be a doctor but I didn’t choose a specialty, I just knew I wanted to be in dermatology and/or dentistry because anyone that knows me, knows I am obsessed with skincare and my teeth so when I graduated from high school I knew I was going to be one of those two.

Back in my high school days I was a tennis player and I was being scouted by tennis coaches. My parents always had a plan for me to move to the US to further my education since I was born in the US. When I migrated to the US after graduating high school, I had to do an additional 2 years of high school here because back in Antigua I graduated when I was 15 (ages 15/16 are the average age a person graduates High school in the Caribbean). After being scouted by tennis coaches, I moved to South Carolina to a school geared towards athletes. While there, I was top of my class with a 5.0 GPA and got recruited to attend a summer forum at Emory which was geared towards the top science students around the South region. During this forum, I got to shadow Nurses, Physician assistants, Nurse practitioners just to name a few. While there I got to see cadavers, I got to witness a full knee replacement surgery and I also got to shadow a dentist as well. Upon leaving this forum, I was still adamant that I was destined to be a Doctor or Dentist. I also liked the aspect of Nursing but in my much younger naive years my whole perspective of Nursing was that it was not seen as a go to profession. I honestly thought Nurses were beneath doctors and I consider myself to be someone that takes the lead and therefore I could not see myself having to answer to all of the bosses; of course I was in High school at the time and didn’t really know much about Nursing. I left the forum knowing I wanted to be a dentist because I could see myself doing that.

Tell us about your journey to Nursing.

I went to Lincoln Memorial University which is a division 2 athletic school in Tennessee where I played tennis and was number 1 in doubles and number two in the singles. During this time I was still competing and was still focused on my academia because I knew playing tennis wasn’t going to be the end all for me, I wanted more out of life. While at the university I enrolled in the pre-dentistry program with biology being a focus, I also took some psych classes that were prerequisites for the program. I was an A student in physics but the pre-Dental and Dental curriculum was filled with a lot of physics classes and I decided that I didn’t want to do it anymore, I went to plan B. After talking with a friend’s mother who is Physician Assistant, she told me I should take the nursing route because when you become a Nurse I wil be exposed to many different specialties. I started doing my research and visited the Nursing program at the school and my parents were very supportive but not my tennis coach was not because he thought I was too smart to be a Nurse and that I needed to be a doctor. I was back and forth and decided to do another year of pre dentistry and I was not liking it so I made the switch to Nursing. I had enough credits to switch over to pre Nursing. I got accepted to the program but then I started having some problems with my tennis team. I was doing well on a team that was predominantly white so there were some racial issues. After talking to my parents they suggested I move to New York since I had family there and give it a try. I contacted a few schools about transferring. Columbia University, NYU, and Hofstra University were some of the schools who reached out to me about playing on their tennis team but they were not offering  full scholarship and I did not want to grafuate school with any debt. Hunter College offered me a position on their team which was division 3, lower than what I was used to but for a public school they are one of the top Nursing schools in the country. I got a full scholarship and I was number one and two on the doubles and singles tennis team. Then I hit a roadblock while at Hunter. After meeting with my advisor, I was told that I needed to be attending the school for at least a year before being accepted into their nursing program. I did not want to do another unnecessary year of undergraduate. I had a lot of psychology credits from my previous school so my advisor recommended that I get my degree in psychology and then do the accelerated Nursing program which is what I did. I finished my bachelor’s in Psychology with a 3.9 GPA. I applied to the Accelerated nursing program. The Nursing program is very competitive, they only select 30 students out of 300 applicants, and I was one of the fortunate ones to be accepted.

How would you describe the Nursing program?

The nursing program was hell! The nursing program was designed for you to fail. I did not have much of a life while in nursing school. I was always studying, my stress levels were always in the 90’s, the exams were hard and I have cried many times to mom because of the stress and competitive nature of the program. Looking back I don’t even know how I survived, I guess it was survival of the fittest. I pushed through and at the end of the program, I graduated with a 3.7 GPA.

How did you choose your specialty?

While I was doing my clinical rotation, my Pediatric  and Labor and Delivery rotation is the one I loved the most. I just didn’t see myself working in geriatrics. I did not like the smell nor the workload that working in that area came with. During my Labor and Delivery rotation, the one part I did not like about that rotation was the postpartum. I fell in love with Pediatrics.

Tell us about your specialty.

Pediatric ranges from newborns to age twenty one and in some states twenty four. I was fortunate enough to have had my clinical rotation at one of the top hospitals in New York,The New York Presbyterian hospital. We treat patients with Respiratory infections, scoliosis repair, quadriplegic patients, patients with trach care just to name a few. I would sometimes get floated to the general floor to treat patients who are critical.

You mentioned you were working on getting your Nurse Practitioner degree. Explain what the process is like.

The program I am in, it is required that you have one year of nursing experience before applying. You also need good references; for me I was able to get a letter of recommendation from the Dean of the Nursing school and some other professors. This is why it is important to network and build relationships. I had to do an admission exam that’s called the Graduate Nursing Admission Test and for my program you must have a GPA of 3.2 or above.


Any Advice for Nursing students and for those wanting to pursue a career in Nursing?

It is important to know that everyone is different and everyone learns differently. I know for I am more of a visual person so for me, watching YouTube videos about topics I didn’t quite understand really helped me. The most important thing is to figure out your learning style and go to each class with that mentality.

What are your Plans for the future as far as Nursing goes?

I don’t really like the bedside nursing per se, I like being a leader and I don’t think there is a lot of leadership roles in my position as a bedside nurse. With being a Nurse practitioner, I would have a little more flexibility and have more independence with my career. The sky is the limit when it comes to nursing. There are so many opportunities in this field. However, I have had many opportunities come my way and one of that is the opportunity to join the Air-Force. I’m working on getting my get Nurse Practitioner’s degree and then I want to get my doctorate. I want to open my own practice and do so much more but for now I just want to focus on getting my Nurse Practitioner’s degree. At the end of my Nurse Practitioner degree I will graduate with a Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN). I know that my next step is going to be the highlight of my career.

Shena Joseph RN, BSN

Comments +

  1. Amanda Cade says:

    Great post! I’ve come to really appreciate nurses, as many of my friends and family have dealt with health problems. The right nurse makes a world of difference, and I love that you’re celebrating them. 🙂

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