Lubaba Mohammed says people often describe her as persistent, so it is no surprise that 23 years after earning her associate’s degree in nursing in her native Ethiopia, Mohammed just attained one of the biggest goals she set for herself – attaining her BSN.

“I always wanted to get my degree,” she says. “But I had children and I worked full time and I had no time.” When she heard of an opportunity to get her degree through American Public University System’s new online RN to BSN program, she decided now was the time. “You have to follow your dreams and stick with it,” she said of the intense time. “If you dream of doing it, you can do it.” She graduated in November and was recently one of five graduates to receive their ceremonial pins as part of the first graduating class of the newly accredited program.

 The process was very stressful, she says. Balancing home life with a husband and two teenagers with a full-time job as a charge nurse in the ER and classwork (including retaking some classes she originally took in Ethiopia), left little time for anything else. But it was worth it. And with a recent nomination as Nurse of the Year from her employer at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, she did it all successfully.

 “This changed me in the way of how I feel,” she says. “It is just amazing. I am more confident in my profession.”

 Because she has been a working nurse for 23 years, it wasn’t newfound clinical skills that gave her such a boost. Rather, she says, it was the communications skills and the management skills that gave her new knowledge, even if her plans don’t include a management track. “I love working with patients,” she says. “I like working in the ER, the excitement and the ups and downs. It challenges my skills every day.”

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 Years ago, Mohammed ‘s original plan to become a bookkeeper didn’t pan out, so she thought she would give nursing a try. The total satisfaction she found in the profession was unexpected. “Once I started, everything changed,” she says. “I thought, ‘I could do this for life.’”

 She was apprehensive about returning to school, especially taking online classes. “It was new to me at first,” she recalls. “And at first I was nervous – would I find the resources I needed? But once you get used to it, it is very nice.” In fact, the flexibility helped her fit in her homework at odd hours.

 Mohammed’s road has presented obstacles, but she was never deterred from what she wanted. When she moved here from Ethiopia in 1994, she studied diligently for five months to pass the required National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) exam and faced a language barrier. She spoke English, but her thick accent made it tough for some to understand her.

 “I frustrated many doctors over the phone!” she says, laughing. But she prevailed, insisting that they talk to her about the patient she was caring for. “It didn’t discourage me,” she says. “I’m always persistent. As long as you have confidence, you can do good for a patient.”


Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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