Soon-to-be RN takes it one class at a time
Linda Gabby proves it’s never too late to find one’s calling
KINGMAN - Linda Gabby was 54 when she decided what she wanted to be when she grew up.
In July, Gabby, 60, will take her state board nursing exams, the last step in a six-year-long process to become a registered nurse.
"I hadn't been to school in 38 years," Gabby said. "I didn't even know what a syllabus was."
Gabby took classes at Mohave Community College while working full time as a nursing assistant at the Gardens senior center and later as a certified nursing assistant at Kingman Regional Medical Center. Gabby credits her CNA instructor, Robin Bodkins, for motivating her to stay in school, even when Gabby felt like she was in over her head.
"I remember looking at the list of classes I needed and I was like, 'That's what it takes?' And they said, "That's the classes you need before you start your nursing classes.'
"At the time, I was 54 and Robin said, 'If you want to do it, do it,'" Gabby explained.
Bodkins, now working as an education coordinator at Hualapai Mountain Medical Center, described Gabby as "pretty timid and a little self-conscious" about her age when she first started but calls Gabby's compassion and commitment her greatest assets.
With the national nursing shortage receiving attention, Bodkins said she is seeing an increase in the number of older women looking at nursing as a new career.
The typical full-time student can expect to spend about two years obtaining a nursing degree, Bodkins said.
While Gabby knew it would take her considerably longer while she fit in classes with a full-time work schedule, Bodkins told her to take it one class at a time.
Gabby, who grew up in Arizona, moved to Kingman in 2002 after a series of careers that included working in the casinos in Reno, Nev., and running a hotel on the ocean shore in Oregon. Gabby said she never had any intention of changing careers or going back to school until 2003 when she found religion and a new purpose.
"When I gave my life to the Lord, that's when my world totally changed," Gabby said.
There were times when Gabby said she felt like giving up. During her third semester of nursing classes, Gabby scored a 68 percent on one of the tests. She credits her teachers and her husband, Joe, for helping her through the stressful times.
She also received a scholarship from KRMC which covered her tuition and part of her books.
Gabby will work as a floor nurse at KRMC for the next year as part of her requirements before transferring to her chosen field of hospice. Older people are more genuine, Gabby said, and more focused on what's really important.
"They know they are dying but they don't want to be treated like it," she said. "I believe that death is just a part of living. Most people who work in hospice have that attitude. Death isn't the end; it's a transition."
Graduates at the nursing pin ceremony were pinned by those who supported them most. Gabby was pinned by her husband who says his wife has always been "happy-go-lucky."
"I have a purpose now," Gabby said. "I am fortunate that the door was open for me."
Gabby is planning a spring break of sorts to visit a new grandchild before returning to work full time in her new profession.
"If I get bored, I might go back and get my bachelor's," she said.