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Adult nursing graduate vows to return the blessings she received and join the profession

Some people dream of becoming nurses when they grow up while others decide later in life to change career paths to become a nurse.
Diane Ragsdale was one who had spent many years in the management and marketing fields when she decided that it was time for her to return to school and to become a nurse.

Ragsdale was one of 111 students awarded a baccalaureate degree on April 11 during Baptist College of Health Sciences’ commencement. The degrees were divided with 74 in nursing and 37 in the allied health degree programs.

The ceremony was held at Bellevue Baptist Church and featured Dr. Fitz Hill, president of Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock, Ark., as the guest speaker.

In 1983, Ragsdale graduated from San Diego State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration but at age 50, she made the decision to begin nursing school.

“My journey to becoming a nurse came later in my life,” said Ragsdale. “I don’t look at my second degree as a ‘do-over,’ I look at it as an opportunity to keep moving forward and making a difference in this world with an additional set of skills.”

The decision for Ragsdale to pursue a nursing degree originated from her experiences when she was 30 and lost her young husband to cancer.

“I had a 4-month-old and a 22-month-old,” said Ragsdale. “I had spent a year on the 5th floor of Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis sleeping on the sofa, and being incredibly blessed to have awesome nurses care for the both of us. It was during that experience where I made the decision to become a nurse at some point.”

At the time, Ragsdale had two infants and no family in town to help, so she decided to focus first on raising her daughters.

“However, I made a commitment to God that when I was able to return the blessings I had received, I would do it in a mighty way,” said Ragsdale. “[And] as my kids got older, I had an opportunity to assist refugees coming into Memphis from war torn countries.”

Ragsdale volunteered for more than 10 years with refugees who were pregnant and had never had the opportunity to have a baby in the safety of a hospital. During these years of volunteering, she was at the bedside to help deliver 20 new lives into this world.

After Ragsdale’s daughters went to college and other events occurred in her life, she felt that it was the “incredible timing of God” grabbing her hand and sending her in the next direction of her life, which was nursing school.

As a result of being spiritually led to nursing school, Ragsdale chose BCHS for the school’s small size, open Christian environment, relying on Baptist for her family’s care.

However, Ragsdale still had to figure out how she could maintain the burdens of being a full-time student and employee with a mortgage and make it through school.

“God made sure I got accepted into Baptist, then He sold my house in 16 hours,” said Ragsdale. “Then He found me a part-time job making more than I did working full time.”

Ragsdale began the four-year program in fall 2009, finishing her bachelor’s degree in three-and-a-half years with the help of transferrable credits from her first degree. She knew after her clinical rotations that her strengths were with “longer term patients, complicated patients, family dynamics and working within multidisciplinary teams.”

“I enjoy building relationships of trust, encouraging families and providing comfort and peace to patients,” said Ragsdale. “The personal experience with my own husband who died of melanoma at the age of 30 gave me a lot of experience to help oncology families.”

Following graduation, Ragsdale interviewed with Mary Martin, manager of the 5 South wing in the medical oncology unit at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis and accepted the nursing position on the spot.

For Ragsdale, the medical oncology unit is of much significance to her, being that it was the very unit where her late husband was treated.

“The nursing staff there became the ‘defining moment’ in my desire to go back to school to become a nurse at some point,” said Ragsdale. “After [Martin] offered me the position, I then told her my story of how important this very floor had been to my decision to be a nurse. I have come full circle in my journey. I have come home to Baptist.”

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