Maggie Hawkins loves being a nurse. It just so happens the working mom became one during the pandemic.
"It was really unexpected," said Hawkins, who works at St. Bernardine Medical Center. "I was in my nursing program at the time, and my teachers really went above and beyond to have creative ways to make sure we got the experience we needed even though we couldn't come to the hospitals."
Hawkins started her career when she just 17 years old as a student volunteer in the Stepping Stones program at Dignity Health St. Bernardine Medical Center. The program gives high school students hands-on experience in the hospital. Hawkins only needed 10 hours of community service, but she was hooked.
"Fortunately, here we have a lot of amazing nurses and willing to teach and explain things to you, and I think when it's explained to you, it's a little less scary," said Hawkins.
As a volunteer, it was her time in the operating department that set her career path. She went on to become the first in her family to receive a college degree. Then, this last year, St. Bernadine offered Hawkins a job as an OR nurse.
Looking back, she says her journey felt overwhelming at times.
"You're nervous because usually there are different specialties. You have no idea what you're walking into and different patients, but for the most part it's really exciting," said Hawkins.
During a decade when there's been a growing shortage of nurses entering the field, Hawkins hopes her story will help inspire others.
"It's such a rewarding job," said Hawkins. "It's a career. It's not just a job, it's a career."