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Feature: SHARING

From the police force to nursing faculty

Mocciola, Judith T. MSN, RN

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doi: 10.1097/01.NURSE.0000751388.71991.86
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In Brief

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MY HIGH SCHOOL BUDDY and I had just graduated from college. She had gone to nursing school and I had pursued a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. She landed a job at a large hospital near where I was living, so we shared an apartment as she began her orientation. I remember saying, “I could never be a nurse. How can you do it?” Well, that was many years ago.

I went on to join a local police department and began working my way up the ladder. You see a lot when you are a police officer, especially when you are first on the scene. I always handled first aid calls until the paramedics got there. I even helped deliver a baby! I had a lot of first aid training and I started to like it, so I eventually became a volunteer emergency medical technician (EMT).

A few years into my career, I got married and had a child. Although I loved my job, I knew I could not do it forever. I thought to myself, “What job could I do when I retire from the police force that would be fulfilling?” I had seen some officers I worked with retire and get jobs as security officers or desk jobs in the corporate world. I knew that was not for me. So what did I do? I pursued an associate degree at a nursing school in my hometown.

I kept my job at the police department and took one class at a time until I had all my prerequisites done. Then I applied to the nursing program, was accepted, and started working on my second career. I couldn't just quit my job, so I did both for a while.

I was doing pretty well in school and had an enormous amount of respect for my professors. I had gained the respect of one professor in particular whom I'll call Mrs. B.

Everything worked out. I raised two children and worked harder in my studies than I ever had in my life. I earned my associate degree in nursing and passed the NCLEX.

The very next year, Mrs. B called and asked me to speak to the students about sexual assault investigations. As a police officer, I was certified by the state to teach on topics such as sexual assault and domestic violence. So, why not? Year after year, she asked me back for several more presentations. Even as I pursued a master's degree in nursing, she kept finding a reason to invite me back. By this time, I was still working at the police department and I was now a practicing RN at a local hospital, where I would work for 20 years.

The next thing I knew, I was helping in a nursing lab at my alma mater. Then Mrs. B asked me to be a clinical instructor for a semester. A few years later, I started there as a full-time nursing faculty member.

I worked at that college for about 14 years. I have remained friendly with several of my professors-turned-colleagues, but I'll never forget the impact Mrs. B had on me. I was honored that she had that much faith in me and she knew, before I did, where I was headed. I know I made the right decision, and I'm glad I became a nurse.

I think of my professors all the time, what great mentors they were, and the learning opportunities they gave me. My professors helped make me who I am today. I never thought I would be faculty someday, but I guess they did.

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