Find Your Passion: Atypical Path to Patients Requires Patience
By Chris Bryant
There were times, Lynnette Moats says, when quitting work to pursue a nursing degree seemed like a 4-year poverty sentence for her entire household, including her daughter and the two nieces she’s homeschooled throughout her college career.
But now, with her University of Alabama graduation behind her, Moats, 44, who sports a perfect 4.0 grade point average, says she feels she’s escaped a poverty sentence that, without an education, “could be lifelong” for both her and her daughter.
“I realized I was never going to earn enough to make a decent living for JulieAnn and me,” Moats says of her former job. “I knew UA had a good nursing program. I knew I would always be able to find a job as a nurse, and it seemed like a perfect match.”
While the match may have been perfect, it was not without adjustments, including Moats’ daughter and nieces sometimes attending UA classes alongside her, particularly during the early portion of her college career.
“They would sit in the back row, and they learned about anatomy, physiology and chemistry,” she said of the girls, now ages 18, 13 and 13, respectively. “The professors were very, very understanding about that. Some of the professors actually bonded with them. They are big readers, so they had a book or two, and my daughter is an artist, so we always had pencils and paper, and they just handled it. I think they knew, too, that, just like in church, if I had to take them outside, it was not going to be pretty.”
And the adjustments weren’t limited to the car-pooling variety.
“There were a lot of times when our dining choices were peanut butter or ramen noodles. We celebrate Christmas in January after (college) Financial Aid comes.”
Moats’ atypical college journey began after she and her former sister-in-law, Paula Diehl, decided to combine households after each went through a divorce. “I don’t have a sister, so she (Paula) kind of fills that void for me. It seemed logical at the time to combine our households and share expenses, two moms, three kids, one house. And that, for the last six and a half years, has been our life.”
Diehl will earn her MBA degree from UA in May.
When Moats wasn’t in class, studying, homeschooling with the kids, training in her Tae Kwon Do classes, or participating in her church’s worship ministry, she found time to conduct research alongside Dr. Ruby Morrison, associate professor of nursing at UA.
Through both extensive literature reviews and interviews with researchers, Moats evaluated quality of life surveys administered to patients following hospital stays for heart failure. “I pointed out the strong points and weaknesses of each of the surveys and, essentially, chose a winner.”
Moats’ role was part of a larger study directed by Morrison on heart failure outcomes. The nursing student and Napa Valley, Calif. native presented the research at the Southern Nurses Research Society conference in February. Participating in such conferences as an undergraduate student was enlightening, Moats says.
“I got to meet other researchers who were working on amazingly diverse things, and it was an opportunity to talk about my experiences.”
Wherever her career takes her, Moats says she envisions continuing to conduct health care research in some capacity. “I am very interested in making things better … improving conditions or finding which techniques work best. Part of the reason I love nursing, and nursing research, is that I love to see people recover, I like to see conditions made better, and I like to know what works and what doesn’t.”
During her college career, Moats, who lives in Moores Bridge in rural Tuscaloosa County, has completed clinical rotations at four different hospitals, working in areas as varied as oncology, pediatrics and adult critical care. She says she doesn’t yet have a favorite field within nursing or a goal of working with specific types of patients.
“I’ve felt the call to nursing for a long time and have (previously) trained as a Certified Nursing Assistant, an EMT (twice) and as a Medical Transcriptionist, but they never satisfied the calling.
“I love patients,” she says. “I love meeting their needs and helping them in some of the most difficult times of their lives. I just want to get out there. Show me the patients; let me at ‘em.”
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This story is part of the Find Your Passion series. To learn more about how you can find your passion at The University of Alabama, please visit UA Undergraduate Admissions.