Ping Yang, a student in the Practical Nurse (LPN) program at Colorado Mesa University, has overcome multiple obstacles and pushed through barriers to get to her current position in the field. Her dedication to the program stems from her passion for the career she hopes to pursue.

Yang moved to the United States from China in 2009, and relocated to Grand Junction in 2013. She wanted to transition into a different career path, and in order to stay close to her children and family, she decided to attend CMU for a nursing degree with a minor in statistics.

“I really wanted to go back to school to learn something new and start a new career,” Yang said.

Although she wanted to move straight into a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN), the process to be accepted was rigorous and Yang was rejected from the program twice. Refusing to give up on her goal, she decided to complete the one-year LPN program and earn her certificate to increase her chances of making it into the BSN program next fall.

“It’s just so competitive. Over a hundred students apply for the BSN program and they accept only 34 or 36 students,” Yang said.

Since Yang’s original applications, the BSN program has increased their selection pool and now allows approximately 50 students into the program each semester. Students must maintain a high GPA and pass a series of clinicals in order to continue in the program.

“Sometimes we’ll all just cry because of the stress, but we’re all in the same boat,” Yang said.

Yang decided to pursue nursing when her father was diagnosed with stomach cancer. She spent half a year taking care of him and noticed the enormous impact health care personnel made on their patients.

“I know how important the nurses were to help my dad and my family. It was a huge thing that caused me to choose nursing,” Yang said.

In addition to studying for her degree, Yang continues to study English in order to break down language barriers.

“It’s very stressful, but we learn so much. Especially for me, because English is my second language, it’s very hard. I have to keep studying and studying and studying,” Yang said.

She also looks after her two children while studying, a feat she said is one of her proudest accomplishments.

“I’m very proud that I’ve taken care of my kids and watched them grow up,” Yang said. “I saw so many kids [in China] who just stay with their grandparents while their parents work in another city to make money. The kids see their parents maybe one time a year… in the United States, it’s a different way, which is one cultural difference that has affected me so much. You have to balance your school and your family… organize your time.”

The BSN program selects its new members using a review of the prospective students’ academic merit and an interview portion. Students must perform well at the interview in front of a small panel, and their GPA must also be higher than an average 3.5. Although Yang’s GPA made the cut, she was rejected from the program for poor interview performance.

“Study hard for your classes and be prepared for the interview,” Yang advises new students entering the nursing program. “Just relax, and don’t get nervous.”

She also says that moving straight into the BSN program is only one way to start a career in nursing; CMU offers multiple paths to earn the degree.

Courtesy of Practical Nursing Program
Yang and her clinical group

“If you don’t get into the BSN, there’s always LPN. A lot of students think they only have one option,” Yang said. “You can still choose LPN. It’s a ladder, from one step to another step.”

Throughout her time in the nursing program, Yang has re-discovered her passion for the field and realized how she can use her career to make a positive impact.

“When I first chose the nursing program at CMU, I never expected it to be so impactful,” Yang said. “The tiniest thing you do can affect or change the patient. Your care and love and support is very important.”

During her applications to the BSN program, Yang said she struggled to genuinely answer one of the interview questions: “Why do you want to be a nurse?” Now that she has experienced the field firsthand and made connections within the program at CMU, she said she can honestly answer the question.

“I have been so cared for and loved by my nursing family,” Yang said, “I went back to China for two weeks because my dad passed away, but my instructors and classmates all helped me through the process.”

Despite missing multiple tests and assignments while away from the United States, Yang’s tightly-knit program helped her stay caught up on her studies and gave her the emotional support she needed to get herself and her family through the difficult time.

“They told me, ‘Your nursing family is here.’ I want to pass that love and care to the patient,” Yang said. “Two years ago, I didn’t have a specific idea of why I wanted to be a nurse, but now I know why.”

Yang will receive her LPN certificate in May 2018 and plans to continue pursuing the BSN program in the fall to earn her degree. From there, she hopes to stay in the area and work in the field to help others in the same way the nursing program has helped her.

“My final goal is clinical research. It’s not as common and popular…  but because of my dad, I want to know more about cancer, the new drugs for it and take care of the cancer patients,” Yang said.

Her advice for incoming nursing students is to study hard and work to realize the true reason they want to reach their goals.

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