From radiation therapy to registered nursing: one student’s story on switching careers

 Cristina Fontana Aug 2013 essayThis is a guest blog post written by Cristina Fontana, a student in Marian’s Indianapolis accelerated nursing program. Her first bachelor’s degree is in radiation therapy. Her anticipated graduation date from Marian University is August 2013.

My name is Cristina Fontana. I was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela. I am 44 years old and have three wonderful children and an amazing husband. I am a nursing student at Marian University for St.Vincent Health. My first degree is in radiation therapy.

For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to work with patients. When I was around four years old, I got my first doctor/nurse play set, and I can remember pretending to take vitals and give shots to all of my dolls. I can honestly say that working with patients has always been a calling for me.

When I was nine years old, my father was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma and unfortunately passed away when I was only 14 years old. That ignited in me a greater passion to become a doctor and work with cancer patients. When I graduated from high school, I got accepted into Central University of Venezuela’s school of medicine. I attended for six years but was unable to finish due to the political and economic situation in Venezuela at the time. The university had gone on strike several times. I also had two small children, and I decided to stay at home with them. That decision did not last long. When my family and I moved to the United States in 1996, I applied to the radiation therapy program at Indiana University and obtained my bachelor’s degree in 1999. I have been a radiation therapist for 14 years and have loved every single day of it.

My mother became very sick five years ago with a pneumonia that took her life. She had a long history of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and emphysema. She was hospitalized for five months. During those months, I got to interact with many nurses who took care of my mother. I loved and admired what those nurses did for her. That experience stirred up in me again those childhood memories of playing “nurse/doctor” with my dolls. However, I had a radiation therapist job that I loved, so I could not justify going back to school.

I have always thought that God works in mysterious ways. I was laid off from the radiation therapist job I loved in April 2011. I felt so lost, and became very depressed. I felt a part of me was missing. I missed my patients and working in the hospital so very much! One day, I heard a radio ad for Marian University’s accelerated nursing program. I remember feeling butterflies in my stomach and telling my husband that day that I was going to look into it and that I wanted to go back to school. I spoke to an advisor, who told me to get my transcripts from Indiana University and from Central University of Venezuela. Most of my courses from both colleges transferred, and I was admitted to the pre-nursing program. I started my prerequisites in November 2011, and I started the nursing program in May 2012. I am expected to graduate in August 2013.

I shared my story because I believe that both my parents’ illnesses and the profound love I developed by working in radiation therapy gave me the inspiration to become a nurse. God put the calling in my heart when I was only four years old, but it is my life experiences that have inspired me to continue my journey. I don’t know that I would have gone back to school if I had not been laid off from my job. I have never been happier, and I feel that I have an amazing purpose to fulfill.  My purpose in life is to help others, and nurses do that every day. It doesn’t matter if I am holding a patient’s hand, teaching about a medication, helping deliver a baby, or helping a patient die with dignity.

Becoming a nurse is such an amazing honor. I would not change anything about my life because both the painful and the great experiences have made me the person I am today. I want my patients to feel special, loved and cared for. It is never too late to go after a dream, and I am a proof of it. We don’t know where our inspiration will come from or who our inspiration will be, but if we listen with our hearts, we are sure to find it. I am on an amazing journey. My patients have touched my life in so many ways, so many times, that I hope to be able to touch theirs as well. It is an honor and a privilege I will not take for granted!

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