Lashanda Arrington-Hughes, RN, BSN, is living her dream as a nurse, treating patients in the ER of St. Luke’s Easton Campus. She loves the pace, the variety of cases and her patients and colleagues as much as she expected to.
Lashanda had dreamed of being a nurse since her youth, but “life got in the way,” says the 35-year-old wife and mother of three children, ages 18, 11 and 9. She gave birth to her first child at age 17, and her youngest son was born with Cerebral Palsy, which required her loving attention as both caregiver and parent. She struggled at times, raising her kids and working as a medical assistant near her home in Phillipsburg.
Despite life’s challenges and the demands of a busy family, Lashanda never abandoned her dreams. She patiently put nursing school on hold until 2016, at age 30, when she was admitted to the St. Luke’s School of Nursing with the support and encouragement of her family and husband, who serves the people of Newark, NJ as a police officer.
Lashanda’s story is that of a remarkable woman’s tenacious focus on achieving a life-long goal. It also illustrates the potentially transformational impact of the kindness of strangers, especially when coupled with St. Luke’s commitment to medical education. Through its nationally acclaimed educational programs, St. Luke’s is fostering family-sustaining medical careers as it trains the next generation of caregivers to meet our community’s health care needs.
Rooting for Lashanda were friends she had never met: Walter and Mary Ellen Bell of Allentown and one of our region’s largest employers, Air Products.
Shortly before Lashanda was admitted, the Bells approached St. Luke’s with a dream of their own. Aware of the growing nursing shortage, they wanted to help our community by unleashing the transformative power of education to change individual lives and meet community needs.
After sharing their vision with School of Nursing Director Lisa Storck, St. Luke’s selected Lashanda to receive a generous scholarship. “We give financial aid to special people who face personal challenges to help them make the transition to a better life,” says Walter Bell, who retired from Air Products. Lashanda’s application and life experience convinced everyone that she was someone who would, indeed, make a difference as a nurse.
According to Storck, the enrollment at the School of Nursing’s 20-month program is at an all-time high, with 300+ students. Yet, the need is so great St. Luke’s hopes to expand the program to keep up with local demand for exceptional nurses. “Students like Lashanda, who take on the challenge of nursing school at a later stage of life, bring a special focus, varied life experiences and an ability to see the big picture,” adds Lisa.
When Walter and Mary Ellen Bell eventually met Lashanda “she blew us away,” especially when we learned she wanted to work as an emergency room nurse, one of healthcare’s most demanding positions. “I couldn’t last a minute doing what she does every day in the ER,” says Bell, who worked in engineering throughout his career.
After the Bells committed to the scholarship, St. Luke’s received some additional good news when they learned their gift would be generously matched by Walter’s former employer, Air Products. Thus far, eight motivated School of Nursing students, like Lashanda, have received scholarships through the collaborative generosity of the Bells and Air Products.
While nursing school’s long hours and curriculum were challenging, Lashanda deftly balanced class assignments with family responsibilities, and graduated in 2018. “The scholarship helped me to become who I’m meant to be,” she says. “It changed my life.”
In May of this year, Lashanda received the nursing excellence teamwork award for the Easton Campus, the first time this honor has been given there since it became a St. Luke’s organization. This award further affirms her value as a colleague and caregiver.
But the story continues, as Lashanda’s motivation and determination did not stop at graduation. She has since earned her BSN at Moravian University and is on her way to earning her master’s degree in nursing, with plans to obtain a nurse practitioner certification. Recently, Lashanda added teacher to her growing list of accomplishments, as she recently took on a position as an adjunct instructor at the School of Nursing where she plans to teach the “see one, do one, teach one” method that is the bedrock of nursing.
“I want to help train others who share the same passion for healing that I feel,” Lashanda says.
And while she is a true model for others, Lashanda is modest about her accomplishments and hopes the Bells are pleased with her career trajectory, so far. “I’m grateful for their belief in me and for their support,” she says. “They gave me an incredible gift, and I want to pass this knowledge onto others.”
To learn more about life-changing giving opportunities and how philanthropy powers innovation and hope across the St. Luke’s Network, contact the Development Office at 484-526-3067.