GED Board: Thanks for meeting with us Liliya. Let us start with your immigration. When did you come to the US?
Liliya: Well, I came from Ukraine, 11 years ago when I was almost 15. I was able to finish 8 grades in Ukraine and then I came here.
GED Board: Can you tell us about your experience in High School?
Liliya: I started 9th grade at Wilson High [a high school in Washington] but I only stayed for a year. I didn’t like it at all. I hated High School and after completing 9th grade, I went to home school next year.
GED Board: Was the High School not a fit because of cultural differences or other reasons?
Liliya: Maybe some [cultural differences], but I felt the schools in Ukraine were so much stronger and while I was struggling with my English, I felt the rest of the information, like Math and Science, was [keeping me] behind. I already had all that [knowledge] from Ukraine. So I just had to work on my English and it was boring. Maybe [it was just] not the right school.
GED Board: Did your parents help you with home school or did you do it completely by yourself?
Liliya: Mostly by myself. I had to do [school] work at home and then go turn in homework once a week. [During] that year, I completed more than 1 year [of high school curriculum].
GED Board: So after the year of home school, did you take your GED immediately?
Liliya: I don’t remember exactly but I think I went back to High School for maybe another semester and totally hated it. [But I had to go because] I wasn’t able to complete everything in home school. And probably after that I decided to get my GED. I think I was 17.
GED Board: Congratulations on getting your GED early. At that time, why did you decide to go into nursing? Did you read about the career options somewhere or get some advice?
Liliya: For me, it was kind of different. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, because as you can imagine at 17 I had no idea at all. And then my older sister [- she is about 10 years older -] was going to nursing school. She knew [that] this is what she liked. So I went with her [to a school] and they told me the classes I needed and I thought ‘Sure, why not? I will try it!’. I tried it … and before I realized, I started working and I liked it. [Now] sometimes I question if this is what I want to do. But at the end of everyday, when I go home, I feel so satisfied. [I think that] ‘I helped this person’. And so it feels like the right fit for me.
GED Board: I see. Can you tell us about how you got your certifications?
Liliya: I went to Bates Technical College and found out what they need for [the] LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) and at that time they required very few classes to get in [the program]. I got them done in Spring and Summer and started nursing that following September. So it was a smooth transition.
GED Board: Okay. Please continue about your education.
Liliya: [After getting my LPN] I didn’t stop. I just had to work on my pre-requisites [for the RN diploma]. So while I was working as LPN, I immediately started taking my [pre-requisite] classes for RN (Registered Nurse) and that took me about 2 years. Now you need all your classes [done] before you start your LPN, but [earlier] it used to be [that you can] just [take] a few classes for the LPN. So [that meant] I had nothing [done] for my RN. So while I was working, I was [also] taking my RN [pre-requisite] classes. And as soon as I was done, I applied and in 6 months I [got in the RN program].[The RN program] was just 1 year. The LPN to RN transition is just 1 year and it is an associates [degree]. If you are new student [to nursing, then] it is [a] 2 year [program] but LPN to RN is just 1 year. It is also way easier to get in if you have your LPN because RN is very competitive to get in but if your have your LPN, [then you are] in a different category and so it was much easier to get in. [After the RN], I went to online school for BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) degree … Washington Governor’s University (WGU, WA). [The course] was at your own pace and I remember [that] when I registered and looked at the classes, it estimated [about] 2 years. But I got it done in 7 months, so … I am proud. [Plus, at] that school you pay for every 6 months and not for every class [and since] I got it done in 7 months, it was not expensive for me. I finished my BSN this February (February 2014).
GED Board: That is very impressive! Let us talk about career growth in the field. How do feel is career growth for nurses, trying to get a better position?
Liliya: It depends on what kind of employee you are. Some nurses have an RN and a BSN but they work as a [direct care] nurse all their life because they don’t want more responsibility. Others are more open to trying something new and want a challenge. I know someone who started, a few years ago, as a regular medical nurse and then she became [an] in-charge nurse, and now she is Assistant Director of Nursing. So for her, it just took a few years to get to a high position.
GED Board: I see. Can you tell us a bit about your career so far?
Liliya: I [currently] work at a clinic with urgent care for kids. It is big practice with 3 different clinic locations. I am a triage nurse and so most of my time, I work on the phone, triaging kids. Parents [will] call [on a] 24 hour line and they [tell] us the symptoms of their kids. [Based on that], I [will] give them advice on whether they should call 911, or take the child to the ER or bring them to the clinic or just give them home care advice. Sometime, I [also] work on the floor for urgent care.
GED Board: What is it like being a nurse?
Liliya: Well, it is very stressful. I [used to] work with older people and it is stressful to deal with their families. When you have [an] older person who is maybe dying or they can’t make decisions for themselves, [then] everyone (the family) is fighting trying to make the decision [and it gets stressful]. Now that I work with kids, I have to deal with parents, step-parents, grandparents.
But it is right for me. At the end of the day, I feel good. [I think that] ‘I helped someone with a procedure’, ‘I gave them immunizations’ … I feel that I did something right.
GED Board: That sounds very satisfying. For someone thinking about being a nurse, should they try to get a CNA to see what it is like?
Liliya: I wouldn’t. I think the CNA jobs are one of the hardest ones. You deal with people constantly and you have to be okay doing that. And it is not really well paid. And if you are thinking about nursing and [become a] CNA, you might be disappointed. It is a hard, physical job and I know I couldn’t do it.
GED Board: What about someone who is interested in more administration?
Liliya: That is me! I don’t really like [to do] too much bedside nursing care [and] even now I only work a few hours a week [doing direct care]. But I have other options. Now that I do home triage, most of the time I am on my phone or computer, giving people advice. Before this, I was an in-charge nurse … there is some direct work, like assessing my critically ill patients but mostly it was paperwork.
GED Board: It also seems that nurse jobs are based on the type of patients they deal with, like pediatric, geriatric, etc. Is that how it is?
Liliya: It is. You know you go to the hospital and they have floors for cardiac patients, neo-natal, pediatrics, etc. … [So], I mean you can transfer easily enough. [However,] most of the time they do require experience but it is not impossible. I know I really wanted to try ER nursing and I was applying for 2 months and almost gave up. But then [I got a] call but at that point I had changed my mind!
In nursing, I didn’t realize what kind of network you build … you know so many people [and] those nurses [at other places] can help. It is so much easier if you put (the nurses) as a reference.
GED Board: Going back to academics, a lot of people are interested in financial aid, like scholarships and loans. How did you manage it?
Liliya: Well, for [the] LPN [program], I qualified [for a scholarship] at the time, because I was working a minimum wage job. State financial aid really helped me out. I didn’t have any loans and then I paid for the RN and BSN [degrees] working as an LPN. Some employers help pay for the education. My employer helped, I think $500/quarter … it wasn’t much but still something. Other employers would pay for BSN [completely].
GED Board: In closing, is there anything else you would like to add on your own?
Liliya: Yes. When I went for my GED, I had some friends who scared me to death by saying ‘You will not be able to anything after you have a GED’ and ‘You will be stuck working at a McDonalds’. [But,] I did my own research and I that ‘No, I won’t have any of those issues’. But they really scared me.
But now no one even asks me where I went to High School. As long as I have my nursing license, I am good. So I don’t want people to get discouraged because some people don’t know what they are talking about.
GED Board: Thanks again for your time! We are sure your path will inspire a lot of students thinking about nursing.