facebook twitter Linkedin Email

Hannah Gerald achieves her life-long dream of becoming a nurse

On May 15, 2020, Hannah Gerald’s life dream came true. She graduated from Lamar University’s JoAnne Gay Dishman School of Nursing with a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing.

For as long as she can remember, Hannah Gerald has wanted to be a nurse. The fact that she was born withHannah Gerald one arm has never been a hinderance, or even a consideration.

“When I was younger I would go to The Shriner’s Hospital and prosthetic limb facilities, and the nurses were always positive,” said Gerald, a Groves native. “I had experiences with nurses and could always see myself as one as well. It inspired me to pursue this career.”

Gerald, who was born with one healthy right arm and a left arm that ends before the elbow, started her college career at Lamar State College Port Arthur where she completed basic curriculum. She transferred to LU in the fall of 2017 to continue her course work and apply for nursing school.

“We have a rigorous nursing program,” said Gina Hale, assistant professor and director of Undergraduate Nursing Studies and Student Retention at the JoAnne Gay Dishman School of Nursing. “Our applicants must meet our academic requirements, which include two years of pre-requisite courses and the successful completion of a standardized admissions assessment exam.”

Gerald was one of 88 nursing students admitted to the School of Nursing in the Spring of 2018.  

“I just really pushed myself to get an entrance to the program, to have a high pass rate. I really worked hard to get in and it paid off.  Here I am now,” said Gerald.

Once Gerald was accepted into the nursing program at Lamar University, she contacted LU’s Disability Resource Center for support and extra help with nursing courses, in case she needed it. 

The Disability Resource Center, which is part of LU’s Division of Global Diversity, Inclusion and Intercultural Affairs, coordinated accommodations for Gerald and worked closely with the nursing faculty to ensure she had access to practice and master her skills.

“Nursing requires specific criteria, and the DRC helped me meet my fullest potential for nursing,” said Gerald.

Kyle Mutz, Director of the DRC, said Gerald was more than determined to succeed and become a nurse.

“Hannah was driven from day one,” said Mutz. “Hannah did everything you would expect any nursing student to do; we just made sure she had the tools and access to do it.”

The biggest challenge Gerald had to overcome was being able to safely perform meticulous nursing skills.

“That was the big thing for me and my instructors. All of us had to find a way to adapt and be safe,” said Gerald. “I was born this way. I can tie my shoes and put my hair in a ponytail, drive. In general, I’ve had challenges learning to use the prosthetic and only wear it for nursing.”

Gerald conquered procedures like drawing blood early in the program. “I just really practiced a lot. Drawing blood is not the most difficult thing. Anything sterile is more difficult but that’s in general for any nursing student,” said Gerald.

“Hannah showed immense dedication and motivation; she was committed to mastering nursing skills.  She spent countless hours practicing in the lab to attain the dexterity required for some vital procedures that nurses perform routinely,” said Hale. “We also learned a lot along the way; faculty worked closely with Hannah to figure out techniques that would work for her while maintaining standards of practice.  We are very proud that we had the opportunity to teach and learn from Hannah.”

Gerald never doubted her abilities but believes others weren’t so sure.

“People weren’t sure how I was going to be able to succeed,” said Hannah. “I was different than any one the program had ever seen. I think there was just more curiosity than anything else but never any discouragement.”

Gerald also sought support from other nurses. She joined a Facebook group of nurses who have disabilities. The group members talk about their disability and how they overcome any hardships related to their physical challenges in order to perform their jobs. “I would ask for advice on how to get through specific situations, and nurses there shared,” said Gerald. 

Mutz attributes Gerald’s success to her determination to become a nurse and willingness to put in the extra effort, practice and time to attain her goal.

“Hannah graduating is a significant achievement for Lamar University because it shows the University’s commitment to opportunities for everyone, despite a disability or a challenge. LU is a place where you can achieve your career goals and dreams, even if you face adversity,” said Mutz. “My office is so proud to have been a part of her journey and wish her a long successful career,” said Mutz. 

After graduation, Gerald hopes to work in the ICU. She is applying for positions and says she’ll go wherever the job is but would like to stay local near family. And, she’s proud of her accomplishments.

“I surprised myself throughout my time at LU,” said Gerald. “I would always say, ‘can I do this; am I going to make it.’ It’s been a long ride, but I’m excited for what’s next.”