Former Marine Transcends Poverty to Become a Nurse
WGU Texas Graduate Makes Lifelong Dream a Reality
Norm Hill will tell you he grew up in the ghetto. Statistically in the U.S., his chances of breaking the cycle of poverty have never been lower. As a young boy he would walk to the edge of his neighborhood and day dream of a different life. “I used to stare across the vacant field toward the hospital. I saw how the nurses and doctors lived and swore I wanted that life someday. Growing up in a single parent household where his mother worked as a maid, college was an inconceivable option for Norm. He joined the military and spent the next 21 years in the Army and Marines where he served as a drill sergeant, an instructor and a battalion medic. Picture the roughest day in a local emergency room and then ratchet it up for the kind of action Norm dealt with. Yet, when speaking with him a person senses his calm control and quiet power. He explains, “I’ve just always felt the need to reach out and help people.”
Thanks to an online program at WGU Texas Norm is going to have a chance to do a lot of that, and to live out his dream of being a nurse, and a nurse educator.
“I applied to the College of Health Professions and had the benefit of advocates inside WGU Texas in getting started,” he said “They helped me when I needed it, and I was accepted into the first cohort in the BS in Nursing (Prelicensure) program,” recalls Norm. The program is one of eight in the College of Health Professions.
While the program employs the competency-based learning model for which WGU Texas is known, it also includes partnerships with local health care providers and clinical simulation labs to provide the hands-on learning and experience student nurses need. As part of his program, Norm was working in the school nurses’ offices (he was an LVN at this point) when he was asked to help a young elementary school student who was struggling with mental health issues. Norm was able to work with the boy to understand his issues and needs and then communicate with the boy’s parents to ensure that the boy received the medication he needed. “It took me three hours talking with the parents, but I was able to help educate the father about this situation so we could help the boy,” says Norm.
“When you’re engaged in the commitment of this degree plan and you have an experience where the knowledge really lets you help someone, it’s very fulfilling. I think people need to know this is the most innovative education that I’ve ever experienced. I’ve been a world traveler for 20 years, and I’m seeing something at WGU Texas that is just as challenging as traditional universities, and infinitely more innovative.”
WGU Texas assigns a mentor to each student, providing every individual coaching both academic and social-emotional for the duration of the degree program. Asked about his mentor, Norm said, “Carma is more than a mentor. She is a colleague, a friend, a motivator when I speak of Carma I think of the light that she brought into any situation. She never misguided me."
When asked about Norm, Carma replied, “Norm will tell you that I’ve taught him a lot; however, I’ve learned equally as much from him. I’ve learned from Norm about perseverance in spite of work, family, and personal challenges. I’ve learned about putting aside old ideas and having the humility and courage to accept perhaps even embrace new ideas and ways of doing things. I’ve learned about the power of humor.”
Norm has recently participated in the traditional nurses’ pinning ceremony where his fiancé Nicole placed his nurse’s pin (pictured at right). He graduated with his bachelor’s degree and is beginning a master’s in Nursing Education so he can pursue his two professional passions nursing and education. “It’s as fulfilling as it is challenging. I knew from the beginning what I was getting into. When you choose nursing you have to do it from your heart, you can’t look at the hours. With WGU Texas I’m supported all along the way. They helped me fulfill a lifelong dream. I just want to tell the world about our university I am so proud of attending,” he said as he continues his path to become a nurse educator inspiring the next generation of nurses in Texas. Nicole has also applied to WGU Texas so she can complete a bachelor’s degree.