When Paula Marshall was five, she dreamed of being a nurse. Decades later, she uses her years of experience to welcome and guide hopeful new nursing students as the Dean of Nursing at Fortis College – Orange Park. But the path to get here wasn’t easy, and Marshall says that nurse educators along the way inspired her and supported her as she pursued her dream.
Despite her childhood ambition, Marshall didn’t start working in the field until after she had been married and had children. Ultimately, her mother-in-law’s illness shifted her destiny back to nursing. As she supported her mother-in-law in hospice, the attending nurses recognized her natural talent and encouraged her to pursue a nursing license. She started small as a certified nurse assistant so that she could work immediately.
She worked as a medical technician in the ER for six years before entering a BSN program. Just as the end of her schooling was in sight, disaster struck–her husband was injured in an automobile accident, rendering him unable to work. Marshall’s teachers and fellow students pulled together to support her financially for the last six weeks of school, allowing her to finish her degree.
Her gratitude for this carried through to her career as a pediatric ICU nurse.
“If I knew a family was struggling financially or with food while their little one was here, it was second nature to me to make a big pot of something and make sure they ate,” Marshall says. “The nurses all banded together and provided them food and comfort.”
While she happily made a difference in her patients’ lives, Marshall felt the tug of her own home life. Although she singlehandedly supported her family during her husband’s three-year recovery time, she missed being able to spend time with her children. It was time to make a change.
Marshall gradually transitioned to nurse educator by teaching clinicals at her alma mater and later took a full-time faculty role. She moved into administration and now enjoys being the Dean of Nursing at Fortis College – Orange Park. Marshall says this transition has put her right where she wants to be–available for her family and supporting the students. After all, she remembers the difference an educator can make in a student’s education.
“My focus right now is making sure our students feel supported and successful throughout their journey here,” Marshall says. “We have such a diverse population, and my associate dean and I really try to give them as much support as possible.”
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