Marcia Lowe, MSN, RN-BC, advanced nursing coordinator at UAB Hospital, Birmingham, AL, knows the importance of serving as a mentor to other nurses. Lowe has been a nurse for 30 years and is currently working toward her PhD at the UAB School of Nursing in Birmingham, AL. Here she shares her career path and advice for other nurses – including why she feels it’s important for nurses to be lifelong learners.

What made you decide to go into the nursing field? What inspired you?

I always had a desire to help people.  I found myself taking care of my friends and classmates in school. What inspired me the most was the fact that I would be the first nurse in my family and the first to attend college.  I wanted to be an example in my community to show others that they too could further their education. I’m passionate about nursing and I see it as a challenging career. You can never be bored in nursing!

What has been your career path? What led you to where you are today?

My career path has really been an amazing journey. I worked in the hospital setting at UAB hospital right out of nursing school for seven years, then transferred to the Department of Health for about a year. I was offered a job at an ambulatory surgical facility in which I applied for prior to accepting a position at the health department and worked there for 18 years. During my time there, I became involved with the Birmingham Black Nurses Association (BBNA) and the National Black Nurses Association (NBNA). Through my involvement with these groups of nurses, I found inspiration, excitement and the push I needed to return to graduate school at the age of 41.  After receiving my Master’s Degree in Nursing Education from Samford University, I continued to work at the ambulatory facility.  I continued my membership with NBNA and BBNA and was elected president of BBNA and served for four years.

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In 2009, a job opportunity became available at UAB Hospital in the department of Nursing Education and Professional Development. I found myself back at the place where I started. I worked in that position for about a year and was transferred to the Medical Division of Nursing Services. I dreamed of completing my doctorate one day and the opportunity presented itself to me last year. I have completed two semesters thus far.  I am so excited about returning to school. I am constantly pinching myself to make sure I am not dreaming.

Describe your current position and what impact you have as a nurse in your current role.

In my current role, I serve as the Advanced Nursing Coordinator in the Medical Nursing Services Division. My areas of expertise are GI/Liver, Liver Transplant, Palliative Care and Gerontology. This job has been a great opportunity for me. I provide education for the staff and ensure that they are using evidence to guide their practice. The educational offerings I offer focus around the role of the professional nurse in the clinical setting. I serve as mentors for nurses, providing educational CEUs, and assist with coordinating their orientation. I encourage all nurses to continue their education and to be involved in their profession. I encourage them to join a professional organization and to get busy with health policy issues. As nurses, we need to be at the table when decisions are being made about our careers. As an Advanced Nursing Coordinator and Educator, I constantly seek creative ways to foster dynamic learning environments and to promote quality patient care. For me nursing is more than a profession, it is a passion.

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Have you had any issues related to being a minority nurse? If so, explain.

Earlier in my career, I had issues of patients and families mistaking me for housekeeping staff. I have not had that happen in a long time. I learned early on to promote myself. I address my patients and families respectfully and introduce myself as Marcia Lowe, registered nurse. That has seemed to work for me over the years.

What general advice do you have for other minority nurses? 

The general advice I have for minority nurses and really all nurses is to be the best skilled nurse that you can be. Seek out those opportunities for professional growth.  Don’t wait to be asked to participate; get involved. And continue your education. We need more Masters and Doctoral-prepared nurses.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?

In five years, I hope to be completed with my doctorate and plan to continue to work at UAB Hospital and eventually accept a faculty position. I want to seek more opportunities to publish and to speak publicly. As a member of NBNA and a board member, I have had some of those opportunities.  In 10 years, I would like to be a faculty member in a school of nursing and continue to mentor young nurses.  I will need those nurses to be highly skilled so that they can take care of me. And finally, I might even publish a book about my journey as a nurse.

Denene Brox is a freelance writer based in Kansas City, Kansas.

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