Oncology Nurse Earns BSN, Heads Toward Enrolling in MSN

LaVorne Smith never pictured herself following in her mom’s footsteps into the medical field, but she landed a unit secretary job at Memorial City Hospital in Houston after graduating high school—and the rest is history. 

The native of England came to the United States in the 1970s by way of Brooklyn, New York, but moved to Houston in 1980 at the age of 13. By the time she was 18 (and a high school graduate), she was working as a unit secretary at the same hospital where her mother worked. 

“I soon realized I wanted to do more, so I transferred to the lab,” she says. When her uncle got colon cancer at the age of 46, LaVorne became interested in the disease, which she describes as “a fascinating evil.” That interest laid the groundwork for her later steps, but first, she married and moved to Anchorage, Alaska, with her husband, a new U.S. Air Force airman. 

A new drive and a debilitating accident

While stationed in Alaska, LaVorne worked as a combined nursing assistant, unit secretary and phlebotomist at the hospital’s first cancer unit. She decided to further her education after she felt she plateaued in her role and wanted to learn more about caring for cancer patients. She earned the ADN at the University of Alaska in 2002 and moved to Florida. Before she could begin working as an RN, however, she was in a debilitating car accident that caused her to take a year to learn to walk again. Once strong enough, she worked as an oncology nurse starting in late 2003. 

In 2004, LaVorne had her daughter and life changes took her and her daughter back to Houston, which became her permanent home in 2006. She joined University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center as an RN.

Returning to her BSN dream 

At MD Anderson, LaVorne realized there was a huge benefit available to her: MD Anderson’s Cohort program. “My coworkers told me about American Sentinel University and it really got me excited,” she says. “After my ADN, I always planned to go back right away for a BSN, but life got in the way. But when I learned that there were several others at MD Anderson also considering American Sentinel, I decided I should finally pursue what I’d always wanted to do.” In 2012, LaVorne enrolled in the BSN program at American Sentinel University.

Challenges along the way

Going back to school was a dream come true for LaVorne, but she had a few challenges to overcome. She went through a divorce and some other difficulties. “I got into this mental slump and even had to stop school a few times,” she says. “It was never easy, but it was also something I knew I wanted.” In 2014, LaVorne moved to the ambulatory infusion center of MD Anderson’s Sugar Land Houston Area Location (HAL), where she became a lead nurse. While there, she also became a Certified Ambulatory Care Nurse. 

Great support from management at the Sugar Land HAL and her American Sentinel advisors helped LaVorne get where she wanted to go—to the completion of her BSN in December 2018. She plans to attend her graduation in June 2019 in Colorado, and in April 2019, she will begin the MSN Nursing Leadership and Organizational Management. 

The first college attendee

At 50 years old, LaVorne is the first person in her family to attend college. She’s proud of the accomplishment and says that she could not have done it without her faith in God and the support of her family and institution. She wants to be an example for her daughter and others. “I want to give myself as many opportunities as I can, and I know that the BSN is a great start, but the MSN will help even more,” she says. 

American Sentinel, she adds, has been a wonderful experience that came at the right time. “I cannot say enough about this university and everyone who works there,” she says. “From the first week I started, I have been able to use the knowledge I’ve gained to help other people. American Sentinel University has been instrumental in my personal and professional development.”   

Inspired by LaVorne’s story? A BSN is ideal for nurses who want to expand their knowledge base, become more marketable and enjoy greater career stability and mobility. Specialized knowledge forms the foundation of nursing and when you acquire new knowledge, you can apply it to nursing practice in ways that enhance patient care and improve outcomes. Have you dreamed of earning your BSNMSN or DNP? With American Sentinel, you can make that dream a reality.  

Read the other student success stories for more inspiration.