Peggy Jones always loved learning about the medical field and taught herself a lot about medicine. When she went to her parents’ doctor’s appointments, doctors would always ask her if she was a nurse. She wouldn’t claim that title, yet, but held onto it as a dream – she always wanted to be a nurse, but other things had to come first.
“My role as a mother came first,” said Jones, a Louisa County resident. “I had two beautiful babies and wanted to raise them, and so I did.”
When her youngest turned 16 and got his driver’s license, Jones enrolled at Piedmont Virginia Community College to start taking the prerequisites for nursing school, deferring her dream not a second longer. At that time, she was 48 years old, but she says changing careers and going back to school was not a hard decision to make. She sold her insurance business and never looked back.
“Everything fell into place,” Jones said. “There was nothing that came about that told me this was not the direction that God had planned for me.”
She never doubted her decision but she did have her worries. The main concern she had at that time was if she would be able to absorb all of the information she would need to become a nurse.
“I was very nervous about being able to keep up and get the grades that would get me into nursing school, and then, of course, once I got into nursing school, being able to maintain those grades to actually graduate,” Jones said.
As a first-time college student at the age of 48, Jones also said that it was intimidating being in a classroom with much younger classmates who were already familiar with the computer software used in classes.
Jones did two years of prerequisites and got accepted into nursing school. She graduated and took the National Council Licensure Examination, which is required to become a licensed nurse. She passed the exam on the first try and officially became a nurse in July 2017, at the age of 52.
“I felt so accomplished – I had set a goal and I accomplished it,” Jones said. “Having my children was the best feeling in the world, but that accomplishment [graduating] was probably second.”
She accepted a job at St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond and has been working there ever since, first in the Intermediate Medical Care Unit and then on the orthopedic floor.
Her favorite parts about nursing are what she finds most rewarding: diagnostics and patient care – figuring out what’s wrong and then giving patients what they need to feel better.
“When you see that patient feeling better because of the care that you and the doctor have given them, and when you see them smile, you know you’ve made a difference,” Jones said.
2020 was a uniquely challenging year, marking the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Jones was a COVID nurse from March to August 2020, the months during which much about the virus remained a mystery.
“At first, it was to wear a mask, gown, and gloves, then they [medical experts] weren’t even sure how it was being passed,” Jones said. “It kept changing every single day as to what we were wearing to protect ourselves.”
Jones and her colleagues also dealt with the emotional stress caused by the pandemic’s death toll.
“People dying without their family members and taking bodies and putting them into freezer trucks was horrible,” Jones. “It was horrible and really hard to cope with.”
The pandemic is ongoing, and although Jones is no longer a COVID nurse, the pandemic has caused many nurses to leave their bedside nursing positions, so staffing remains a challenge.
To manage the stress that comes with the job, Jones decompresses on her days off, meditates, takes walks, and prays; she also says she is lucky to have a strong support system among her family, friends, and coworkers.
In the future, she looks forward to expanding her knowledge of the medical field and always wants to be involved with patient care, building trust and interacting with patients. Nursing does not come without challenges, but Jones never takes for granted the career for which she waited so long.
“I waited a long time, but finally, the dream of being a nurse came true,” Jones said. “It’s never too late to chase after your dream.”