“And Then COVID Happened”

NursingApril 23, 2021

Fortis Nurse Profile: Shundreka Allen-Jackson

Thirty years ago, the American Nurses Association established National Nurses Week to recognize the essential caregivers who selflessly serve their communities. Each year the celebration culminates on May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, who’s been widely recognized as the “mother of modern nursing.” The past year has tested the resolve and dedication of nurses and nursing students across the country as they served on the frontlines of COVID-19. This week we honor Fortis nursing graduates, students, and instructors by sharing their stories. 

Fortis graduate Shundreka Allen-Jackson is not afraid of setbacks. She started her nursing education at the nursing program at Fortis College in Orange Park (Florida) in 2019 after Hurricane Michael derailed her plans to become a dental hygienist. Little did she know, she’d face more challenges, but she didn’t let any of them stop her. She shares her story:

I remember the first day of orientation. All the teachers came in to give us their stories, tips, and let us know nursing would not be easy. Dr. Errico emphasized that we should have study groups and stick with them. I knew nursing would be hard, but I had previously passed my boards for dental hygiene, so I figured it wouldn’t take me by surprise. 

I started my first nursing classes the semester after and it was definitely challenging. Study groups were really helpful. We started clinicals … and then COVID happened. That made the challenge even tougher. 

Ms. Dossous, my Med Surg 1 instructor, was always right on the money. I describe her as that tough mom. But at the end of the day, her way worked. She’d always say, “Ask questions! If you don’t understand something, that’s on you. You have to ask.” She would literally stop class so we could all ask questions. When we were in class, she’d actually walk to our spots in the classroom to stand next to us and answer our questions. I don’t know why, but I always felt like that helped. We could go to her with our thoughts at any time. She was a walking nursing encyclopedia. 

Ms. Dossous set up a makeshift hospital at her home. Everything covered in Med Surg 1, she did it in her makeshift hospital on camera. We’d jokingly remind her to move the camera down. She allowed us to really enjoy the process and we all shared laughs in-between. 

The four-hour lectures on Zoom were really hard. So many people had kids that were also stuck at home, and storms kept causing people to get kicked off zoom. But she fostered an environment where we’d all interact online and ask each other questions or for help. She was so serious about our education, and that made us even more serious about it.

I had personal and medical issues where I’d email Ms. Dossous – sometimes at 11 at night or early in the morning – and she’d write me back almost immediately. I don’t think I could have made it through nursing school without her. Definitely, my experience wouldn’t have been the same without her. 

I now work at Mayo Clinic. I took an exam recently and could hear her voice in my head. The little things she taught us in detail. She was pivotal. It didn’t matter which class I was in, the study group from her class continued to be my go-to for help. She’d still hop on Zoom and do a session with us or send a study tips email. She was always there, making sure we got it. Ms. Dossous was amazing. 

Mayo Clinic is great. Their standard practices are always above and beyond, which really prepared them to care for COVID patients. They track hand hygiene really well. I actually won an award for highest percentage of hand washing! Fortis really drives home hand hygiene, which is so important to keeping patients and other people safe. It’s so commonplace for me. It’s become muscle memory. One patient recently told me she would never have guessed that I was a new nurse. 

Congratulations on your job with Mayo Clinic, Shundreka! It’s our pleasure to honor you and all of the other nursing graduates who didn’t let the pandemic stop you from pursuing your career path. To learn more about the nursing programs at Fortis Colleges & Institutes, St. Paul’s School of Nursing and Denver College of Nursing, please click here.