Deitra Mechelle Watson

January 25, 2010 

Her jobs: Family nurse practitioner, Midlands Center; adjunct nursing/health services administration professor - Strayer, Walden and Webster universities

Age: 38

Family: Husband, Kenneth; three children, TwaMaine, 19; Kairah Lee, 12; Makenzie, 5 months

Education: Bachelor's degree in nursing, S.C. State; master's in nursing, University of South Alabama; bachelor's in community health education and master's in education, Eastern Kentucky University; doctorate in human ecology, University of Tennessee

Community/professional involvement: American Academy of Nurse Practitioners; American Nurses Association; Black Nurses Association; S.C. Nurses Association

Her story: Watson started as a nursing apprentice at an Augusta hospital. She worked in a unit that housed several AIDS patients, where she found herself counseling and educating the patients and their families. That lead to her work in health education. Watson became nurse practitioner to combine education and health. She works with medically fragile patients at the Midlands Center.

While working at South Carolina State University, she helped raise the number of nursing students who passed their national exams. She later was selected to serve on a national board working to increase nursing graduates from historically black colleges.

What saying does she live by? "Dance like no one is watching, sing like no one is listening, love like you've never been hurt and live like it's heaven on earth" - Mark Twain

Her life changed when ... She became a resident assistant at Eastern Kentucky. "I was fortunate to have a mentor who recognized that I was not ... living up to my potential. She helped me to not only hone in on my strengths, but instilled in me that I deserved just as much as anyone to be successful."

How did she recover after failing at something? "I have always been known to jump into things without always planning things through. I received a scholarship to the University of Tennessee to work on my Ph.D. For some reason, I was determined to live off campus and failed to secure housing. When I arrived to the university I was literally homeless with $250 to my name.

"I recovered by first understanding that God does not give you anything you can't handle." She spent two nights sleeping in her car before talking with her academic adviser, who helped get her into a YWCA until university housing became available.

What is your advice to changing careers successfully? "First, make sure the career change will benefit both you and your family. ... The bottom line for me is that I would not be here without my family and friends as they always had my back. If you are married, both of you have to be on the same page."

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