High-Achieving Mother and Daughter Earn 2021 Rutgers‒Camden Nursing Degrees


Leah Nagle (left) and Tracey Nagle

Leah Nagle (left) and Tracey Nagle

By Jeanne Leong

As a mother of six children who holds two nursing jobs, Tracey Nagle’s daily schedule is filled with enough activities for two people.

When she receives her doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree from the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden this May, she will have done so by adhering to a strict schedule, while adapting quickly to new health regulations resulting from the pandemic and the demands for medical services.

Tracey Nagle at work as a part-time neonatal intensive care nurse at AtlantiCare Medical Center in Pomona

Tracey Nagle at work in the neonatal intensive care unit at AtlantiCare Medical Center in Pomona.

Throughout her 25-year nursing career, Nagle has held one full-time and one part-time nursing position. When she started in the Rutgers University–Camden DNP program in 2016, she began staying up late and getting up at around 4 a.m. – hours before anyone else in her family woke up – to work on class assignments and prepare for class that evening.

A school nurse at Middle Township High School in Cape May Court House, Nagle began working remotely in March 2020, and was answering questions about COVID-19 from students and parents all day long instead of her usual 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. schedule. “I was the community contact,” says Nagle. “This was all new territory. People were calling all of the time to get advice on what they should do if someone is exposed or tests positive for COVID.”

After the workday ended, she drove from the family’s home in Dennis Township in Cape May County to the Rutgers‒Camden campus, using the travel time to listen to online lectures.

On top of that already demanding schedule, Nagle also works weekends as a neonatal intensive care unit nurse at AtlantiCare Medical Center in Pomona.

Leah Nagle (center) with classmates Chelsea Price (left), and Gabriella Castelina (right) volunteering at the Camden County Vaccination Center to provide COVID-19 vaccinations

Leah Nagle (center) with classmates Gabby Castellini (left), and Chelsea Price (right) volunteered at the Camden County Vaccination Center to provide COVID-19 vaccinations.

Nagle hopes to use her DNP degree to become a nurse practitioner in a school-based health clinic, family practice, or pediatric practice, and pursue a teaching position at the Rutgers School of Nursing‒Camden.

Her daughter Leah, also a 2021 Rutgers‒Camden graduate, will receive a bachelor of science degree in nursing.

Leah Nagle always knew she would follow in her mother’s footsteps, but she could not have imagined that they would be graduating from Rutgers University–Camden in the same year.

“I watched her while I was growing up, helping everyone,” says Leah. “I thought it was really cool, and I wanted to do it too.”

Tracey’s oldest daughter, Devon, graduated from the Rutgers School of Nursing‒Camden in 2020, and is now an orthopedic and neuro nurse at Cooper Medical Center.

Tracey Nagle began the DNP program at Rutgers–Camden in 2016, when Devon was entering her first year of college. Now, as she completes her degree, she is graduating with her second daughter, Leah.

Balancing life while a parent and children are attending college can take a toll on everyone in the family, but their support for each other helped make things go smoother. Nagle’s husband, Gary, and all of the children would assist at home, and offer advice and moral support.

“When someone is struggling, the rest of us are right behind them,” says Tracey. “We say things like, ‘Just keep studying and you are going to get through it.’ They saw me go through the DNP program and they were as much of a support to me as I was to them.”

Inspired by their mom, the sisters are also masters at multitasking. They worked as servers, bartenders, and managers at restaurants to pay for tuition and living expenses, including one year when they were roommates in Philadelphia. They decided to move back to their parents’ house to save money in their last few years of college, and make the commute from Cape May County to the Rutgers‒Camden campus to attend classes.

Leah (left) and Devon Nagle

Leah (left) and Devon Nagle

“Sometimes, it would be about 100 degrees, and I would be sitting in my car, which doesn’t have air conditioning, sweating in my nursing scrubs, trying to get home so I could take a shower,” says Leah. “It was worth saving all of the money for tuition. I would do it over again.”

The sisters’ sacrifices allowed them to complete college debt-free.

Both Devon and Leah plan to continue following their mother’s example by pursuing a Rutgers‒Camden doctor of nursing practice degree in the future.

The family’s connection to Rutgers‒Camden could expand to include a fourth Nagle family member. Another daughter, Jada, a junior in high school, is considering attending the university and becoming a nurse.

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