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Hay Finds Her Groove with Second Career in Nursing

Nursing is a second career for Marija Hay (Licensed Practical Nursing ’21, Registered Nursing ’23).

“Farming alone just wasn’t going to cut it,” Hay, now 52, said.

Knowing her family was ready for their matriarch to pursue full-time employment off the farm, Hay’s coworkers on the medical-surgical ward at Avera Gregory Hospital encouraged her to pursue a nursing education. On a whim on a night shift, she recalled thinking, “Why not?” and submitted her application. Soon, her life would change.

“I told my husband, ‘I was accepted, so now we need to make a decision,’” she said. “If he wasn’t going to back me, I knew I couldn’t do it, but he and our three boys were all in, so I moved from Gregory, S.D., to Parkston, S.D., to stay with my brother’s family during the week” and began her journey, initially working on her Licensed Practical Nursing diploma while continuing to pick up weekend shifts as a patient care technician in her hometown. “I chose MTC because it was a 12-month program. Considering my age, I didn’t want to go to school for four years.”

The first two weeks were a challenge.

“I’d been home for 30 years, milking cows and raising boys, and I didn’t understand the computer systems,” she said. “I can’t tell you how many days I just bawled.”

But, with the help of her brother, she learned to navigate technology, and coworkers in Gregory cheered her on from the sidelines.

“In our facility, there are a lot of second-career nurses, which is very helpful, because they’ve gone through the same thing and can give me input and keep me motivated and focused,” Hay said. “It just got a little easier as I went.”

On campus, the nursing faculty were committed to Hay’s success as well.

“They knew it wasn’t easy, and they had my back and were going to do what they could to to help me succeed,” she said. “Any time I needed to talk to one of them about something, they were always there.”

And, though she was a non-traditional age for college, Hay said she found a network of support among her peers.

“To me, you don’t look at the age once you start at school,” noting that some of her closest nursing school friends are closer to her sons’ ages than her own. “It’s not like a mom[1]daughter role – you’re classmates, and you have a common goal in mind. We are all nursing students. Outside of school, we are different, but while we are here, we are one group. You try to help one another study and understand things better.”

Now also a graduate of the Registered Nursing program, an option that was added while she was working toward her LPN degree, Hay said her only regret is that her contributions to the field will be limited.

“Realistically, I am probably not going to be doing this job 25 years from now,” but she doesn’t regret caring for her children before taking care of others. “This was just the ideal time for me. My boys were grown, and I could focus on just my school work. And, as far as commitment and putting in the hard work and the determination to do it, I don’t know that I would have had that commitment when

I was younger.”

Hay graduated among the top of both her LPN and RN classes.

“Because of my age, it’s really not an option to fail and have to do it again,” she said. “I think that forces you to focus and work harder. This was my one shot to do this.”


Hay said she encourages others who are considering a second career to go for it.


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