Birth of a New Career

Dereka Moore’s family had questions when she decided to have a water birth: “What is a water birth? Why would you want to do that? Why not have a regular childbirth?”

She provided facts and eased their concerns while also settling her own doubts about where to take her career.

Moore now wants to become a nurse to help guide women and their families through all things related to the childbirth process. Moore, who is in her first year as a student at the Rush University College of Nursing after initially pursuing a career as a biologist, recently talked about her path to nursing and how she settled for nothing less than the top-ranked clinical nurse leader program in the nation.

Tell us about your background.

Dereka Moore: I earned a bachelor’s degree in biology at Spelman College in Atlanta and a master’s in biology at Georgia State University, which is also in Atlanta. My original plan was to get a PhD in science. I just love teaching and research, so that seemed like the logical thing to do. But I wanted there to be a clinical component to my career.

When my husband and I had our second child, I decided to take some time off to raise our two girls. That transition definitely sparked my interest in nursing.

How so?

DM: It was huge realizing I was going to stay home and focus most of my attention on my children after being very academically driven for much of my life. It provided a break that allowed me to look into different careers.

I did a little teaching at Spelman College during that time, and that’s when I started to get really interested in childbirth. I gave a couple of lectures on birthing, and I got a really positive response from the students. I shared my experience of having two natural water births, which is giving birth in a pool of water to make the process gentler for the baby and the mother.

My family also had questions when I decided to have water births. Educating my family and others really sparked my interest in childbirth. I’m very comfortable discussing my story and listening to women talk about their own birth experiences. So how can I push that forward and make it some sort of career goal? I decided to become a doula — a birth coach. And that was basically the transition point when I knew I was starting to move toward more of a nursing type of career.

My birth experiences were great because of the really awesome nurse midwives who advocated for me and my husband and helped me make informed decisions. I wanted to directly affect women positively, specifically minorities who might not have the education to make informed decisions about their birth.

Why did you decide to pursue your goal at Rush’s College of Nursing?

DM: The GEM Clinical Nurse Leader program’s reputation was definitely a factor. It was perfect for someone coming from another field, and I knew I wanted to go to a top school if I was going to take the leap of going back. I wanted the best possible education.

Spelman College has a great pipeline program with the GEM program at Rush, and I met a rep from the College of Nursing at a recruiting event in Atlanta. I gave them my resume and said, “I’m not applying yet. But remember me.”

At the same time, my husband had plans of going to business school, and he was eying schools in Chicago. When he got accepted, that was the green light. I knew I wanted to go to Rush.

So you transitioned from one big city to another?

DM: Yeah. It was a little scary because we lived in Atlanta for 11 years. I met my husband there, went to school there, got married, had two children and had family members who moved from New York — where I’m originally from — to Atlanta. So moving to Chicago and leaving our support system was a huge decision.

We committed to creating a new home here, and Chicago has been awesome. I love how much diversity and social activism there is.

Tell us about your experience at the College of Nursing.

DM: I’m impressed by the faculty’s commitment to each student. From orientation on, they really try to listen to student feedback. As a student and a former teacher, I really appreciate and commend that.

And Rush’s curriculum is top-notch. Even with my science background, I feel like I’m challenged in different ways. It’s one thing to think in a theoretical, academic type of way, and it’s another to take that knowledge and apply it clinically to the health care we’re giving to patients. It’s really hard to make that connection, but Rush does a great job.

What do you see yourself doing after you graduate?

DM: My mind is pretty set on labor and delivery and postpartum care — all things related to birth — but I was given some really wise advice from a former GEM student: come in with an open mind. I’ve really tried to apply that. I’m learning so much and gaining so many different experiences here, so I’m trying to be receptive to other disciplines.

What advice would you give to people who are thinking of getting into nursing after starting in a different field?

DM: If you want to go back to school after time away, especially if you’re a parent, it’s important to have a good support system. For me, it has been my husband, who has been a big help with home tasks at times when I need to focus a little more on school. I’ve also relied on a support system at school. There may be times when my kids are sick, and I need someone to record a lecture so I’m not missing important information. A dual line of support — at home and at school — is critical.

Another piece of advice: Give yourself some slack. There can be a transition period for people who haven’t been in school for a while. You’re in a different stage of life — a different set of circumstances. You have evolved as a person, so you should give yourself slack to adjust to life in school again.

Grades are important and everyone wants straight A’s, but the biggest thing is to understand how to apply the information you learn. Resolve to take something from every class. I think that’s going to be a very important part of my success.