My journey from Medical Assistant to LPN

Debra Riley


As part of our scholarship award we received many essays about personal goals and journeys to becoming a nurse. This is another one we wanted to share. It showcases one persons real life journey – across countries and in to a future nursing career.

“If you want something in this life, reach out and grab it.” This is a quote by Christopher McCandless and one of my core motto’s in life. I knew from a young age that I need to work hard and smart to achieve my goals in life.

I’ve always wondered what it was like to get out of the small beautiful island of Fiji and see the world. I was able to get this one chance be the part of this country, the United States of America,where I can be anything I set my mind and help out as much people as possible.

Growing Up

I was only in the 4th grade when it was clear to me “what I want to be when I grow up.” I use to go to the local health care facilities in Fiji and see the way the health care representatives cared for people. It always motivated me. I knew I have one life to make a difference in the world and there could be nothing better than being a registered nurse.

Nurses are kind, loving and understanding. In my experience, I have seen this warmth and care from one of the nurses in Fiji when my grandma was very sick on her death bed. I still remember I was in the middle of my 4th grade year that we went to visit my grandma at the hospital. She was very sick, later we came to know that she had cancer. She was very weak. On the last day with my grandma, it was time for her to eat, when my mom and I went to visit her.

She was very happy to see us and that glow on her face and smile despite all her pain was incredible. The nurse taking care of her gave her a plate and to my surprise gave me one as well. We didn’t know that would be the last time we would see her because she passed away roughly 3 hours after we left the hospital. That nurse gave us an everlasting memory we shared with my grandma and that act of compassion was beautiful.

What is a Nurse Symbol? – for me it is the uniform and all that caring stands for.

After experiencing a last meal with my grandma, I knew I wanted to be the nurse who can also give someone a similar memory. At my high school, I took some of the nursing perquisites for students looking to pursue the nursing profession. Our school system in Fiji for high school was from 9th to 13th grade also know as Form 3 to Form 7. The Form 7 exams was something we took to get in the required field in the University.

I finished my Form 7 right before I came to the United States and I was also accepted in the nursing program there. My whole family was moving to the United States, so I didn’t have much choice and decided to come with them. I felt regrets but I also knew that in the US I would have better opportunities to better myself and others.

The Big Move

In the United States, my family and I had to work very hard to establish ourselves in the much more expensive Bay Area lifestyle. We eventually bought a house within the 5 years of being in the country. Now, 8 years later, I am finally able to be a full-time student and focus on my dream career of nursing.

I have a few friends and family who are in the medical field. I always try to talk to them to gain some insight of the nursing field. They continuously inspire me when the tell me about some of the experiences they’ve been through and situations they’ve got into. It seems like a major responsibility but also can be very fulfilling.

mediacal asistant

I seek to help others and can’t wait to have my own experiences as well. I also enjoy watching television. In my house in Fiji, we didn’t have television or WiFi in our homes so there were very limited opportunities to explore a variety of career types. When I came to the US, Grey’s Anatomy immediately became one of my favorite shows to watch. For me, just to small glimpses of the happenings in the medical field excited me and I was instantly in love with it.

When I first came to United States, I worked a job at McDonald’s to help pay rent. Piece by piece my family built a living for ourselves here in America and my dream/career of being a nurse took a pause. I worked there for few months and then started working in Sears Outlet for almost 4 years where I moved up the ranks to become an apparel lead.


I knew English and was confident in speaking and writing it, however, speaking to different people was very intimidating to me at first. I left a small island and had always been in school. I didn’t go to many of my friends houses or even around town. I was always home and whenever outside; my mom was always there.

So, coming to this country and not going to school and working with different people was not very comforting for my self-esteem. Eventually, I learned a lot from my experience as the apparel lead and was able to grow used to the people here and how to navigate through new challenges.

These experiences made me see the world in the whole new way. I was able to learn so many things and I gained so much skills in life. I was able to know how a fast food company runs, how a retail store works and, after becoming a medical assistant, I was able to have real-life experience in the medical field. Medical assisting has taught me a lot.

I am confident with how I take care of my patients, how to talk to them, deploy empathy, sympathy and follow the HIPAA guidance to protect patient information. Working as a medical assistant for almost 4 years now has broadened my medical understanding and skills. I am so glad I did medical assisting as it helped me understand the medical field much better and make my wish of nursing to a goal of becoming a nurse. Reading nursing magazines has been a great way to learn about nursing and to improve my English – I recommend it!

Over the years, I learned how to be more confident and have a higher self-esteem. I learned how to be authoritative, kind, caring, forgiving and understanding. My past work experiences has provided the experience and lessons I needed to grow and prepare myself for my Nurse Journey. Now, I am more determined than ever to accomplish my goal to become a nurse and help others like I set out to when I was younger and still in Fiji.”

Before you go … have a quick look at our nursing blog for some interesting articles, all about nurses and nursing. See how many hours does a nurse work – really or maybe read about the patron saint of nurses. Just a couple to get you started.

Thanks for reading!