Nacole Riccaboni, MSN, APRN, AGAC-NP, started to document her nursing journey years ago as a way to track her experiences as she began as a nursing student on a challenging career path. As she progressed, gaining advanced degrees and nursing responsibility along the way, she publicized it all on NurseNacole.com where she now offers daily nursing tips and a supportive environment for other nurses. Minority Nurse caught up with Nacole to ask her about her career, inspirations, and her life as a nurse.
Why did you want to be a nurse?
I wanted to help the people within my community. I was involved in a car accident (as a child), and the interaction with the nurse changed my trajectory towards a career in nursing. Since that encounter, I’ve always wanted to be a nurse. I started with an ASN (at a local community college), proceeded to get my BSN, then MSN, and now I’m working on my DNP. Nursing is an ever-evolving profession with many opportunities, I love what (nursing) has given me knowledge-wise, and I love caring for the people in my community. The act of wanting to help people in their time of need resonated with as a child, and I wanted to be that person to others when I grew up. The medical field always caught my attention, but that singular experience solidified what I needed to do and what I needed to work toward in my career.
Your nursing journey was not a straight line, but it seems like that helped you prepare both professionally and psychologically for the rigors of nursing. Can you talk a little about your path from a progressive care unit to the ICU?
As a new nurse, I started on a progressive care unit (PCU). It was a powerful experience. I had patients with various diseases and symptoms. Nursing leadership assisted me in cultivating the proper critical-thinking and time-management skills to manage many things all at once. After two years, I moved to the intensive care unit (ICU) and used those very skills to care for the most acute patient populations. I faced anxiety and the stress linked to caring and being responsible for vulnerable individuals throughout my journey. Nursing can be stressful, but I had a good support system (both professional and psychologically) that helped me through these many issues. From a medication error to the general emotional burden of healthcare itself, it indeed was a journey that I look back often and continue to respect and use the skills obtained in my journey.
How important was it for you to continue your education and receive an advanced degree and several certifications? What benefits do you see from continuing your education?
It was imperative to me that I continued my education journey. Yes, I’m one of those people who say, “knowledge is power.” I believe knowledge and education are keys that will open the doors for opportunities. I don’t consider education to simply be a set of courses and exams. With each certification, each class, and each degree I obtained came with many hours of knowledge and experiences I use to as I move forward professionally. I know formal education gets a bad rap for being expensive, and some people have negative experiences in such environments. But, I did my research and made sure the exchange (knowledge for funds) would benefit me in my professional journey and would be a good investment. I wouldn’t continue for the sake of continuing or for acquiring ‘alphabet soup’ (all the titles behind my name). I seek an education because I value the wisdom obtained during the process. I use this knowledge to help my community and my loved ones.
Can you talk a little about how you found the goal-setting structure that works for you?
I have an odd goal-setting structure in that, I have daily goals (micro-goals, is what I call them). I learned that if I don’t set daily goals, my bigger goals would not be accomplished. Life is about the small choices we make. Everyone talks about the big decisions–going to college or changing careers (and those events are essential). But those big moves can’t exist without the smaller choices being made and built upon. In school, you study each day to pass the exam, then pass the class, so you graduate and achieve your goal of graduation. Bigger goals overwhelmed me as a teenager, so I reprogrammed my mind to only focus on smaller moves and tinier bits. When I started nursing school, the idea of being a nurse was out of this world. Why did I think I deserved to be a nurse? Could I do this? Am I even smart enough to do this? The anxiety would wash over me, and it would make me want to give up. So instead, when I wake up, I have a post-it note of things I needed to do that day. Either reading a chapter on cardiovascular disease or cleaning the kitchen all builds onto and into something bigger. It’s one step of many, and I purposely focus only on one step at a time, so my anxiety isn’t triggered into obsessing over the larger picture.
What led you to begin your NurseNacole blog and YouTube?
As a nursing student, I figured I’d fail and rather spectacularly. I was terrible at math and wasn’t a good student (academically) in high school. I just thought I’d track my journey in video form as a way to look back and reflect. Not sure why someone would want to look back on a possible failure in their life, but that’s me for you, haha. But that’s what I did. Each week or so, I’d go into my bathroom and record my nursing school journey. I didn’t know how the journey would end up, but I knew I wanted to track it in some way (perhaps out of curiosity of the unknown). Fast forward, I graduated, and now I’m an acute care nurse practitioner, and I’m trying to post when I can. Although I’m now married with two kids (three kids in a month) – recording is more difficult as my house is nothing but noises! But I’m still active on social media, and I post when I can and provide daily nursing tips on my blog (www.nursenacole.com).
How has the response to NurseNacole.com been? What are nurses telling you?
The responses have been supportive and fantastic, although the internet has its dark sides as well. I focus my energy and time on interacting with only supportive people and providing advice and tips to these said individuals who seek support from me or the nursing community in general. As a black female in the medical field, I’ve had my fair share of racism and microaggressions. Luckily, online, I control (to a certain degree) what I read and who I allow into my little online worlds. I try to focus on what will enable me to grow and develop and less time on people who tarnish and injure my self-esteem and mindset. Most nurses are fantastic human beings, though, so the ability for me to maintain my perspective is somewhat uncomplicated. I don’t feed the monster, so to speak, nor do I allow myself to be drawn into certain encounters to preserve who I am and my mental health.
What makes you so passionate about nursing?
Someone helped me when I was young, and that experience was powerful. I want people to feel support in their weakest moment. My husband had a heart attack that required cardiothoracic surgery at a young age. I myself had a C-section that rocked my birthing plan and mindset at the last minute, and I also had a same-day abdominal surgery I wasn’t planning for. Life is unpredictable, and in those moments in the hospital, we all deserve someone who understands our fragility and assists us throughout the entire physiological and emotional healing process. I’m passionate because my family members and I have been there, and we know how important it is to be present and simply help those in need. All medications and monitors aside, nurses are healthcare, and I wanted to be a part of that world and impact the profession.
What’s next for you?
I’m finishing up my DNP. I recently completed my MBA. My goal is to work towards opening my homeless shelter or community clinic. I feel my community needs more resources like this, and I want to use my knowledge base in this regard.