A Second Chance: Once Told to Move on From Nursing, Ashley Accordino will Graduate from the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden

Ashley Accordino never forgot what she was told four years ago as an undergraduate nursing major at another university.

The words hurt then and, even as she reflects on that moment now, she gets emotional.

Ashley Accordino will graduate from the Rutgers School of Nursing-Camden in May 2016.

Ashley Accordino will graduate from the Rutgers School of Nursing-Camden in May 2016.

“I was told that I would never get through nursing school,” Accordino says. “My dean at the time told me that I would not be successful in a nursing program. I knew it would be a huge obstacle and I didn’t expect to be accepted anywhere else, but I was determined to become a nurse.”

On May 18, Accordino, a Gibbstown resident and Kingsway Regional High School graduate, will graduate from the Rutgers University–Camden with a nursing degree, achieving a goal she never lost sight of even though she had been told she should try something else.

In the end, she only had to prove it to herself.

The road to finally achieving her dream was a bumpy one and Accordino faced many hurdles along the way. At her previous university, she came up short of a passing grade in one nursing course and retook it, but still could not get through it.

“I was dismissed from the nursing program in my last semester,” she says.

A short time later, she became pregnant with her son, Leo, who was born in December 2012 with gastroschisis, a condition in which the baby’s intestines protrude from its abdomen. Leo spent more than eight weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia with his mother Ashley at his side.

“At one point, I didn’t think we were ever going home,” Accordino says. “The day we left the NICU was the best day of my entire life.”

Her son’s health put things in perspective, Accordino says, and once fully recovered, Leo “became my motivator for wanting to go back to nursing school.”

“I wasn’t accepted anywhere, until I got a letter from Rutgers–Camden shortly after we got home saying that I was accepted to the College of Arts and Sciences,” she says. “I thought that was my foot in the door. I talked to Karen Montalto (director of the Office of Nursing Student Success at the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden) and she told me to work hard and be patient. When I finally got my letter from the School of Nursing saying I was accepted, I cried.”

It was confirmation of something Accordino knew all along: that she did belong in nursing school.

“It was a long time coming,” she says. “I never really saw myself as a nurse before finishing high school. I probably told my mom a thousand other things I wanted to study, but when it came time to pick a major — you’re kind of forced to decide your whole life at that moment — I chose nursing. I feel like it was the best career option for me.”

Accordino describes herself as nurturing and compassionate, traits that she says are critically important for every nurse to have, and she says watching nurses care for her son while he was hospitalized helped reinforce her desire to become a nurse.

“Rutgers–Camden gave me a second chance,” she says. “I had my doubts. I got into nursing school again, but it was up to me to do well and overcome the obstacles that I couldn’t before.”

In addition to balancing her coursework at Rutgers–Camden with being a full-time mom, Accordino works part time as a patient care associate at Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia. Eventually, she hopes to attend graduate school and become a midwife.

“Its hard work and a lot of people will tell me they don’t know how I still come to class or clinical smiling, even after work, and class, and being a mom, but it’s all for my son,” Accordino says. “If I’ve learned anything, it’s to never give up.”

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