Minority Nurse Scholarship finalist Shanelle McMillan says nursing is a family tradition, but that she has been especially gratified to start her nursing career as a certified nursing assistant (CNA).

Now a junior in Winston-Salem State University’s Division of Nursing, McMillan’s five-year plan includes an RN, a BSN, and enrollment in the doctorate of nursing at Winston-Salem State University where she would eventually like to teach.

But she believes her training as a CNA gave her the most fundamental and essential introduction to nursing that she could have. In her scholarship application, McMillan called becoming a CNA one of her most meaningful achievements.

As a CNA, McMillan says she was able to see if nursing was really going to be the right career choice for her. Always the first to comfort others who are upset or in pain, McMillan says the experience as a CNA offered close work with patients where she was able to see almost immediate impact.

I believe the benefits of starting as a CNA is to get your hands and feet wet in the healthcare system and to see if you will really like nursing or not,” she says. And the daily interactions with people meant she would spend considerable amounts of time caring for patients, but also getting to know them as well.

As a CNA I have first-hand knowledge of the struggles of disabled persons and what they go through on a daily basis,” she says. “I get to interact with the client which is the most important of all because if you get to know your client, it will be easier to care for them.”

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And McMillan says this is also where she saw the benefits of a diverse nursing staff. When patients see people who look like they do or have the same cultural experiences, they are more open, she says. Developing that strong bond helps with treatment.

Raised primarily by her grandmother in Richmond, Virginia, McMillan’s determination and drive come from watching her. As a nurse who worked long hours, McMillan’s grandmother always helped people, even during her off hours. That kind of role model was a huge influence.

My determination comes from my rough childhood and upbringing,” she says. “My dad always told me to be strong and tough, and my grandmother always taught me to never give up.”

As she has progressed through nursing school, McMillan says the friends she has made and the supportive professors have all helped her success. And McMillan also credits her faith with keeping her moving forward. “There were a lot of setbacks in my life getting me to this point,” she says. “And I have to give thanks and all honor to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Without him, I don’t even think I would be in nursing school.”

With her progression through the various opportunities in the nursing profession, McMillan says she is especially conscious of being part of a group that is so determined in its dedication.

Some say all nurses have at least one thing in common,” says McMillan, “they want to help people. Not only do they play the role of caretaker for their patients, but in some circumstances, they can also be a friend, an advocate, counselor and teacher. It takes a special kind of person to fill all of those roles the way nurses do.”

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Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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