Grad Q&A with Vocational Nursing graduate Dianne Pablico
A licensed vocational nurse (LVN) can use their special training and skills in a variety of medical services and specialties. That benefit is what changed Dianne Pablico’s career interest from law to health care when she was a senior in high school.
She was smart to jump fields of interest and go with her instinct that kicked in when she performed community service at a senior care center as part of her graduation requirements. She was introduced to the many options a well-trained medical care professional might enjoy in such specialties as neo-natal, obstetrics, pediatrics, cardiology, rheumatology, respiratory, oncology, emergency medicine and other patient care departments.
How did your new medical career direction unfold?
I volunteered at the senior care facility after school my whole senior year and got really interested because there were so many opportunities in health care. You could be bedside for patients, helping patients to walk, dress and ambulate (mobility), or the office side of case management.
The feeling of being able to help seniors who mostly didn’t have any family, made me feel like I was taking care of my grandparents. I found my empathy. It opened my eyes for healthcare, and I started looking into programs to get into that field.
How did you start your new medical career direction?
I did City College right after high school and got my Health Administration Certification. I started working as a Health Unit Coordinator at Sutter Health in San Francisco then San Francisco General Hospital where I worked from 2014 to 2020. I worked in ERs (Emergency Rooms), NICUs (Neo-natal Intensive Care Units) and had exposure to many different specialties.
What was the next step in furthering your profession?
I was doing my prerequisites for a Registered Nursing program at another school when the pandemic hit, and everything was shut down. I couldn’t waste any more time waiting for their RN program to start, so I looked for a VN (Vocational Nursing) program in the Valley.
So, now, it was SJVC. They really helped me out with everything. I met with the Director of Nursing, did the application and the next thing you know I had everything I needed for my first day of school.
What was your greatest challenge?
What almost got me was the not sleeping part. I was so exhausted. I would do 12-hours of work then at 4:00 AM would sleep a little and then go to school at 8:00 AM. My husband, JD, helped a lot because he was working from home and taking care of the kids (Bella-7 and Prince-5 now) while I’d go to school and then work.
I finally took a leave from work for about 7-8 months, except for a few hours on the weekends, because I wanted to focus on school until I graduated.
Did you have the support you needed?
JD would take the kids to school and pick them up, feed them, get their showers. He let me just do me: sleep, homework, read. It wasn’t his words it was his actions. What he did for me to be able to push through those times, for a guy to stay home and take care of the kids…is a lot.
My kids were very supportive. They would whisper their needs. I felt like our kids were very aware of our situation, what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. There were times I wanted to give up, but it was always my kids who put me back where I needed to be. You don’t have to look far to see why you’re doing what you’re doing.
What advice do you have for others who struggle to make a better life for their family?
There’s no such thing where you can get to your goal right away and without sacrifice and suffering. If you have good people that surround you, you will never feel like giving up because of all the strength they give you.
Balance yourself and your family. Work can be so heavy that people don’t know how to take themselves out of it. It’s ok to take care of yourself.
My biggest thing was taking mental breaks. Taking time away from work and school; just enjoying my family for a weekend. Decompressing. Then, I come back happy and ready to take on a new week.
What were some of the highlights of your Vocational Nursing program?
Meeting my classmates who had a similar background, and we were all looking for something stable in a career where we could grow as a person and as a health care professional. And meeting teachers and our Dean of Student Services who were very supportive. Even now, after I’ve graduated, I still feel their support and keep in touch with them and some of my classmates, too. We still help each other – especially those who haven’t taken the test (NCLEX-PN – National Council Licensure Exam for Practical Nurses).
What was your experience taking the NCLEX?
After graduation (from SJVC’s VN program) I didn’t go back to work full-time because I wanted to review for the NCLEX-PN. The weeks before the exam it was review, review, review. The last two weeks it was heavy review morning and afternoon. The day before the exam I just relaxed. I went to Disneyland.
What was the exam pressure like?
When I was in there it felt like twilight; I was zoned out. We were given 5 hours for 148 questions, and I took the whole time. I didn’t take any breaks because I thought ‘what if I need those ten minutes!’ Some questions I was really confident about, but others I thought ‘OMG is that even right?’
When I came out, I couldn’t remember any questions. What just happened? I was so thirsty I drank three bottles of water. But the worst thing was waiting those three days for the pass/fail results. I had no idea if I’d passed.
Monday morning, I went online to find out. It took me 5-minutes to scroll down and see the word ‘Pass’ next to my name. I screamed. I had already been interviewing for LVN positions I didn’t even know if I could take. HR had told me ‘You’ll be fine’ while we were literally waiting for my test results.
What is life as a Licensed Vocational Nurse like?
I work 8:00-5:00 in the allergy clinic and after work I’m a home health nurse. I visit patients in their homes and do follow-up, take blood pressure, vital signs, wound care, catheters, pain management, and patient education. I like doing home health because I don’t want to lose those nursing skills I learned at school – the hands-on part. Home health is a different kind of dynamic; it’s you and the patient one-on-one.
Was it all worth it?
My kids see me happy at what I’m doing. I’m able to provide for them, go places we want to go. We’re able to live the lifestyle we imagined.
They say, “My mom is a nurse”. They’re really proud of me. I see it. I feel it.
Are you where you want to be?
I’m going to go higher up to become a Registered Nurse and Nurse Practitioner. I’m giving myself five years. I’m not done! This is still the beginning of my career.
Our RN to BSN program is a Bachelors degree completion option for Registered Nurses.