Two women who received the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree in the UTC December commencement ceremony have unique stories of perseverance—one was 15 years old when she came to the United States from Egypt so that her family could pursue career opportunities and gain religious freedom. Another was a rebellious young woman who spent a lot of time completing in-school suspensions.
Marian Morgan was a “social butterfly” while she was growing up in Egypt. She was very popular and the class valedictorian of her middle school. When her parents decided to move Morgan and her brothers to New Jersey, no one in her family knew English or anything about the culture of the Garden State.
But those difficulties were only the beginning for Morgan’s family. Her father became ill and her mother went to work to support the family with jobs that paid little more than minimum wage.
“That’s the best thing about this country. If you have nothing, you can be something,” Morgan said.
Morgan, now married with her own two children, says her mother encouraged each of her children to work hard in school, and all of them have solid careers. She says her mother is “her inspiration” and the person she invited when Morgan defended her dissertation.
“I know she was proud of me,” Morgan said.
Morgan remembers when her family went to doctors’ appointments that the nurses often gave comfort in ways that transcended language.
“Without a good nurse, you would not have a good outcome. I’m not taking anything away from the role of a physician, but a nurse gives care from the cradle to the grave. They can make a difference in a very hard situation,” Morgan explained.
Morgan works as a family nurse practitioner in Student and Employee Health Services at Meharry Medical College. She encourages young women to do their best, stay organized, and set small goals.
Her experience at UTC was made special by the many caring faculty she met, especially Dr. Joanie Jackson, whom she said offered exceptional support.
“My experience at UTC was priceless,” Morgan said. “I have grown in experience in the last two years. My former boss said she has never seen me so confident.”
More Herrington’s mother had significant health problems when she was in high school. Herrington became rebellious, often serving suspensions in school. During one of those suspensions, a monitor for the school wrote her a note on a slip of paper that said “You’ll never amount to anything.”
At sixteen years old she became a lifeguard, then an EMT, and later a paramedic. When she went to school for her nursing degree, she had to petition the school to let her in on probation, because of what she called her “embarrassing high school transcript.”
When she moved from New York to Tennessee, she took two positions as an ICU nurse and as an educator in critical care, specializing in open heart care. As a BSN, she wrote a book and implemented a nurse residency curriculum.
She finished her MSN and began teaching full time in 2009 at Roan State Community College in Harriman, Tennessee, while she maintained a position at Sweetwater Hospital Association in ICU.
As a Doctor of Nursing Practice graduate from UTC, she is more passionate than ever about developing policy for the standardization of RN practice. Education requirements for nurses are different from state to state.
“RNs are not all the same, they are not jacks of all trades. That’s not recognized by the public, and that impedes practice,” Herrington explained.
She says it is “surreal” to realize she has earned a doctoral degree. At UTC she focused on the academics of nursing, saying she will always be passionate about the field. She continues to teach at Pellissippi State Community College, in Knoxville, Tennessee, and she continues to work at Sweetwater Hospital Association as an ICU nurse.
“I can’t imagine doing anything else,” Herrington said.
The empty nester has been a single mom for a long time. When she began her nursing career she had a one-year-old son and her daughter was born when she was in her fourth semester at school. She’s held at least two jobs since she was 16 years old.
“More than anything, my career is a role model for my students. I don’t want to hear ‘it can’t be done.’ I’m a firm believer if you want something bad enough you can make it happen,” Herrington said.
After all these years, she still has the slip of paper from that monitor who wrote her that disheartening message. Now’s the time, Herrington said. She plans to frame it.