March 12, 2020

Pregnant in Nursing School & Now in CRNA (DNP) School With 2 Kids - This is How She Did It

Pregnant nurse taking selfies and practicing healthcare on dummy

Nursing school is hard! Clinicals, classes, labs, and if you have a family, it’s almost impossible. Imagine being pregnant in nursing school? Now, imagine going through a rigorous CRNA program with children? I caught up with Sierra Hardy, BSN, RN-BC, CCRN-CMC-CSC (and DNP Nurse Anesthesia student) to discuss her journey from pregnancy to parenthood through two nursing programs.

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PW: Why did you choose nursing?

SH: I became a nurse as a second-degree student. My initial bachelor's degree is in exercise sports science. I wanted a career with structural options at the time. I always had an interest in nursing but was deterred by guidance counselors. I now value the importance of a great counselor to children!

PW: How long did you work as an RN before deciding to advance your education?

SH: I worked in critical care for about five years before beginning my advanced practice degree. 

  • I’ve worked in the cardiovascular ICU (CVICU) of a magnet hospital and then transitioned to a cardiothoracic surgical ICU where I did open heart recovery. 
  • I’ve also worked as a telehealth nurse for a large insurance company, which was remote but gave me an appreciation for the different avenues in the nursing profession.
  • I worked as a traveler in Atlanta, Ga on a CVICU open heart recovery unit, then 
  • Went to a Level 1 trauma hospital where I was a part of the opening of a CVICU.

PW: Why did you choose CRNA?

SH: When I began nursing school, my ultimate goal was to become a CRNA. When I was a teenager, I discovered I had a medical condition--which required me to have many procedures and an extensive operation. The anesthesia team was constantly educating me through the process and made me feel so comfortable throughout it all. I was appreciative of such a great medical team, but anesthesia really caught my attention. I loved the procedure area and operating room feeling, it seemed like a second home to me, but I wanted to be able to provide a high level of care. The field of anesthesia is growing, and the multimodality factors that we can provide for patients are amazing.

Sierra Hardy posing by lake while pregnant

PW: Let's talk pregnancy and nursing school? What barriers and challenges did you face?

Pregnant nurse taking selfies while wearing scrubs

SH: The story is kind of funny. I was in my first semester of nursing school in pediatrics. My professor said, “someone always gets pregnant in peds, so don't be the one!”

Well, guess who became the one?

It was a shock for sure, but quitting was not an option. I went to a top HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), and it was tough. I did what I had to do to make it. I was told to take a break from school, to wait until he was older, and come back, to look into other options--but it wouldn't stop me. 

I found the hardest part of being pregnant was nausea with 6 AM clinical. It was hard being at the bottom of the totem pole, as a nursing student, by being pregnant. I could tell people wanted to give me the "student experience" but also felt obliged to treat me as a human being because I was indeed carrying a child. As I moved further along,  in my pregnancy, my uniform and navigating patient rooms were the hardest part. I still managed to be successful!

I do believe being a new mom was the biggest change and challenge as a nursing student. I timed it pretty well and had a break from school when I gave birth, so it made the transition to mom-life better. I'd say the biggest barriers with an infant were,

  • Childcare
  • Scholarships
  • Study time

I had to work part-time to pay for childcare, and I didn't get any financial aid, even though it was a state-funded university. I remember one time it snowed, and my campus was not closed, but my son's child care was, so I had to take him to class and keep him in a stroller outside the classroom while he napped (nowadays you'd go viral for the stuff I did). I had the door open and was in a desk where I could see him, but it was a humbling experience.

Sierra Hardy posing with newborn

My professors saw my dedication, but a lot of my classmates saw it as being unprofessional for lack of a better term. A lot of my classmates looked down upon me and didn't want to help me out, but it was ok. I still made it.  My study habits became staying up all night, while my son slept so I could have uninterrupted time. I did miss out on a lot of the motherhood joys people experience because I was consumed with school. I knew I needed to graduate with a high GPA to eventually apply for CRNA school. 

PW: Tell us about your CRNA program? 

SH: My program is a 36-month doctorate program. Most of the time is on campus, except for the DNP classes, which are managed online. Currently, I am taking three classes with two labs.

  • I have class all day on Mondays beginning, at 8 AM until 4:30 PM.
  • I have a simulation lab on Tuesdays from 8 AM until 12:30 PM and Wednesdays
  • I have a skills lab for anesthesia and then advanced health assessment class and lab from 8 AM until 12:30 PM.

If you know anything about Atlanta, the traffic is terrible. I have to leave my house by 5:50 AM to get to campus on time. I begin clinical in May, which will progress to up to four days a week, plus a full-time class load. The clinical sites we have may require traveling, and some rotations are up to four hours away, so I will need to stay there while I am in rotation.

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PW: Now that you're in CRNA school, what barriers and challenges do you face as a mom? 

SH: The world of CRNA schools can have some “parent shade,” where some programs won't even take you if you have children. I chose Emory University because my director was not one of those people. She supports us and doesn't let me being a mom stop me from my goals. I knew I'd have to work hard and sacrifice time with my children, but a 3-year sacrifice for a better life afterward seems like a fair trade. The biggest challenge is classmates who don't have kids. They don't understand how much more I have to do as well as worry about school. My children have been quite resilient so far. The beginning was a little difficult because their demeanor changed, and it was evident something was wrong. I try to at least help with getting everyone to bed on a nightly basis, and we all have our prayers and quiet time together. I do feel a sense of guilt because my children always want to go do things that cost money, and I have to budget out income since I can’t work. 

Nurse practicing on dummy with Emory sweatshirt

Image via @theSRNAparent

Advice for parents considering CRNA school

The biggest advice I have for other parents is to make sure they have a support system nearby they can rely on to help out. Anesthesia school doesn't make time for kids, so you have to be very strategic with how you balance all of your daily tasks. When my kids are home on the weekends, from school, I try to find things for them to do around the house because I have to study for at least eight hours a day.

Nurse Hardy holding newborn after giving birth

PW: What are your future motivators and future goals? 

SH: My motivators are being able to practice as an anesthesia provider, doing the things I've dreamed of for years. The profession is lucrative, but becoming debt-free is the main goal for my family and me. I want to be able to help underserved communities get the care they need and go on mission trips. A future goal of mine is to complete an anesthesia fellowship specializing in pain management. I want to be able to use that in the future as an avenue of practice.

PW:  What advice do you have for nursing students who are pregnant or have children?

SH: The best advice I have for nursing students who are pregnant or have children:

  • Utilize your resources. If you have a trustworthy family, you can rely on to help with your kids utilize it! 
  • Talk to your school resources, see if there is childcare, scholarships, or anything else helpful for you to succeed as a parent. 
  • I believe that reminding yourself of your goals will help to motivate you. I've told my friends to write on their mirrors their name with their nursing degree afterward so they can see it every day to keep them going. 

Lastly, I promise all of the hard work, tears, and dedication will be worth it when you are finished. The struggle is only temporary, but the hustle is forever. So stay ten toes down, with your head up and your eyes on the prize.

Two children smiling at football game

Follow Sierra’s journey on Instagram @theSRNAparent

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Portia Wofford is a nurse, copywriter, content strategist, and nurse consultant. Chosen as a brand ambassador or collaborative partner for various organizations, Wofford strives to empower nurses by offering nurses resources for development--while helping healthcare organizations and entrepreneurs create engaging content that connects and converts. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter for her latest. 

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