Nurse Member Nicole on Making a Difference In the Lives of Others By Prioritizing “You”
Name: Nicole Gaines
Locale: Nashville, TN
Alma Maters: UC Chattanooga & Cumberland University
By Day: Registered Nurse at Vanderbilt Medical Center
SoFi Member Since: 2015
Approximate SoFi Loan: $37,000
SoFi Savings: ~$500/month
Nicole Gaines is a single mother, full-time nurse, dedicated daughter, community volunteer, and bikini contest competitor. Needless to say, she is the definition of success. Nicole shares that her secret is in making it a priority to take care of herself in order to take care of others.
Why did you choose a career in nursing?
I originally started my career as a tech in radiology. About three years ago, I decided to go back to school and get my undergrad in nursing from Cumberland University in Nashville, which is where I’m from.
How was it starting out?
Overall, school was great. I was going to Cumberland full time through their accelerated program, which meant I was going to school during the evenings and weekends and working full time during the day. Through the program, I was able to graduate in 18 months with my second Bachelor’s degree.
How much in student loans did you take out?
I took out approximately $50K, mostly private loans through Sallie Mae. I was limited in the amount I could take out through federal funding, as I already completed both an Associate’s and Bachelor’s degree in Radiology prior to nursing school.
What was it like to have that amount of student debt when you graduated?
I decided to refinance my student loans with SoFi when my grace period was running out, which was about six months upon graduating. Without refinancing, I would never have been able to afford the monthly payments. There was no option to adjust my interest rate.
What’s been most challenging in your career?
While working on my second degree in nursing, my father passed away unexpectedly and my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. During this time, I continued to work and go to school full time. I also took care of my daughter as a single parent, while being my mother’s caregiver. It was a very challenging, and in the end, rewarding accomplishment.
How is your mom doing now?
My mom’s doing ok. She was diagnosed about three years ago, and went through lots of therapy. But she hasn’t taken infusion in a year and a half now. She’s back to doing normal activities, which is a huge relief.
What do you enjoy most about being a nurse now?
The kind of patients I deal with on a daily basis. I’m able to have strong relationships with my patients, as I understand them. I’ve been on the other side and know what their families are going through.
How do you balance the demands of being a nurse with family life?
I try to have a really strict schedule. Going back to my days at Cumberland University, I’d come home late at night and do my homework, and then wake up at 4 a.m. for work. On my spare time now, I enjoy spending time with my daughter, who is seven. I love taking her shopping and getting our nails done. Typical girl stuff.
Anything else you do to keep it all together?
Towards the end of nursing school, I made the decision to become more healthy. I began training hard with weights and competed in my first bikini competition. Working out is a major stress reliever. I also volunteer.
How are you giving back?
I volunteer at a lot of local community events here in Nashville. I do education and outreach. Mainly breast cancer awareness, which is what I’ve specialized in for the past eight and a half years, and has of course affected me personally.
Any advice for other working moms who are single parents?
Just remember to be your best for yourself, before you can be your best for anyone else. No matter how much you need to care for others, it’s important to take care of yourself so you can be at your best for them.
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