Student Success Stories:
Student Success Story – Wensday Vines
Wensday Vines always wanted to be a nurse, but it wasn't until her daughter's health crisis that she finally decided to pursue that dream and enroll in the Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) program at Missouri State University-West Plains.
"I've wanted to be a nurse for a really long time, but more importantly than being a nurse, I wanted to be a mom, so I waited until my kids were out of the home before going back to school," the mother of two said.
Vines, who was born in Mtn. View and raised in Houston, completed high school as a homeschool student in 1993. She eventually married, had a son and a daughter, and completed the required training to work as an EMT and first responder.
Life was good until it threw her a curve ball in January 2013 when her daughter, Tiffani, was diagnosed with restrictive cardiomyopathy. A year later, doctors determined her condition was caused by a gene mutation that also causes muscular dystrophy. A progressive disease, the only cure for her daughter is a heart transplant, Vines said.
The diagnosis led to many visits with doctors and nurses, some of which, Vines admits, left her feeling frustrated.
"You get to a certain point where they've either not educated the patients properly about the symptoms to look for or they don't have the time. In Tiffani's case, no one else in the world has been found to have this specific gene mutation, so they look at her as a guinea pig and forget she's an actual person and not just a case study," Vines explained. "It all boils down to old-fashioned bedside manner. You might not be able to fix her, but you could sit down with her, find out how she feels, what she likes."
Those experiences prompted her to revisit her dream of becoming a nurse. "I wanted to be able to help others, specifically those with cardiac issues who are difficult to treat, to show compassion because a lot of that is lacking in health care," she explained.
As a homeschool student, Vines needed to complete a high school equivalency exam, known as the HiSet in Missouri, and the ACT before she could enroll. Fortunately, she had a study partner in her daughter for the HiSet, and both successfully completed the exam in 2015.
"My biggest fear was taking the HiSet," she said. "Once I took it and did well, I wasn't as worried taking the ACT. I scored a 27 on the ACT. I don't think I would have scored that high right out of high school."
With both tests completed, Vines was admitted to the University and enrolled in classes in fall 2015. A year later, she was admitted to the ASN program.
As with many non-traditional students, Vines had to adjust to being in the classroom again. "At my age, I feel I have to work harder to retain the information, and I do. But I also have an overwhelming desire to succeed that kids out of high school might not have. I am determined to do the very best I can, and I wouldn't have been like that as a teenager or young adult," she said.
Because of the program's rigor and time requirements, Vines does not work full time, but she has found the financial backing she needs through scholarships, the federal work-study program and small loans.
"Financially, I've been blessed with scholarships and financial aid. I have taken out small loans, but we've also made adjustments for me to get this done. We don't eat out, and we don't have cable TV," she said.
Vines is on track to graduate with her ASN in May 2018. After that, she will work toward her long-term goal of becoming a cardiac nurse.
"Becoming certified in cardiac care will require more hours than I can acquire at Ozarks Medical Center, so I will need to consider working in a cardiac care unit in Springfield or St. Louis to obtain the hours and training needed to be certified," she explained.
Eventually, she said, she will go for her bachelor's and master's degrees in nursing.
She's grateful, however, that she was able to get her start at Missouri State-West Plains. "With this program, I was able to get my prerequisites out of the way before entering the program itself," she said. "With some other programs, you don't have these options. It would have been more difficult and a harder choice to make without Missouri State-West Plains' nursing program."
Vines also doesn't regret starting college later than most students. "I don't think any time is too late to go back. If you have the desire and the will to put in the work, you can start at any age," she said. "It's a great program here. The instructors are excellent and want you to become great nurses. I love it!"