“I was a 17-year-old single mom of two and I didn’t have my GED.”
This is how Michelle Rojas McKinney’s story of becoming a nurse manager begins. Her local school had a program for young moms, “Get on the Bus” which took the mothers and their kids together to finish high school. Unfortunately, with the birth of her second son at 17, she dropped out. Michelle then got into a program to be a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). When an audit was done, they realized she did not yet have her GED. That embarrassment was enough to send her running to her local library to check out a book on taking her GED. A week later, GED completed, she was on her way to finish the CNA program where they encouraged her to get her Associates Degree and to keep going. Michelle mentions that one of the best resources is FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). FAFSA combined with working with a guidance counselor / advisor at her school played a key role in her long-term success.
She spent 4 years becoming a Licensed Vocational Nurse and then a Assistant Director of Nursing. When it was time to get a job, it was so hard because no one wanted to hire anyone without experience. Ah yes, the old catch-22… However, while a brand-new facility was turning most of her graduating class down, they took a shot on Michelle. Michelle has been a nurse at an Elderly care home ever since. She has always had a heart for caring for the elderly.
Michelle shares that one part of her journey, marriage, was delayed gratification. Although she lived with her now husband Cody, had a son together, and Cody was officially filling in on step-dad duties for her two older boys, the financial aid was specific to single moms so they had to delay getting married.
Michelle mentions that being in the nursing program means everyone around you is in the program. She had great mentors who invested in her and encouraged her and showed her what could be possible in the medical field. Her Medical group also invests resources to keep their nurses continuing education and they paid for her Certified Wound Care certification. Next up for Michelle is taking her entrance exam for a Registered Nurse program.
The best feedback Michelle gets is when families thank her for caring for their family members with such tender loving care. If you are interested in pursuing a career in nursing, Michelle’s top 3 characteristics she looks for in candidates are: integrity, compassion, and humility. Sometimes you have to do the jobs no one enjoys doing.
COVID was an exceptional display of humility. Many nurses began taking jobs that were paying more money and so more duties, big and small, fell on the shoulders of the remaining nurses. It was especially hard when family members could not visit their family and the nurses would often FaceTime with the families. To this day, Michelle is on call every 3rd weekend. She leaves her laptop open and logged in on those weekends. She goes above and beyond by logging in the new admissions herself to keep her staff focused on patient care instead of the admin work. Her staff knows they are never alone, even when her presence is not there physically.
Michelle displays all of the core tenants of FIERCE: Courage, Resilience, Empathy and Hustle. We are excited to see Michelle reach her ultimate goal of being a Nurse Practitioner in Wound Care. Until then, we wish her much luck in reaching and inspiring many other young and aspiring nurses.