From Government Cheese to Successful Nurse Business Owner

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nursing success, personal development
Me and my girls when I was 22

If I told you that 30 years ago, I was receiving food stamps, feeding my kids with government cheese and peanut butter, and didn’t have $5 to buy a book of stamps to pay my bills, would you believe me?
It’s true.
Like many young people, I made adult decisions with a teenager’s pre-frontal cortex. Married at 19, pregnant 2 months later, and because of complications, was forced to quit college to ensure a successful delivery. My husband at the time (we eventually divorced) was young too and didn’t know how to provide for a family.
My daughter was born and then 10 months later I found out I was pregnant with my second daughter. I can remember looking around at my tiny apartment, the empty refrigerator, and the calendar with the next date circled that I could pick up my supply of government cheese, and had my first ah ha moment. In that moment, I decided that I wanted a better life for my kids and went back to school to become a nurse. It wasn’t easy but 30 years later, I can tell you that it was the best decision I’ve ever made.
Now I own and operate an education company (RTConnections), have a doctoral degree; I’m remarried to an amazing man and get to travel all over the world speaking to nurses about topics I’m passionate about.  

If you asked me what my most valuable possession is, you’d be shocked to hear my answer.

My most valuable possession is my library card.
When I decided I wanted a better life for myself and for my kids, the first thing I did was I took a trip to the library. There, I reactivated my card and borrowed the maximum, 10 books. I started reading books on personal development, finances, spirituality, relationships, etc. 
It didn’t happen right away, but something started to shift in my brain. My mindset changed from being a passive observer in my life to an active participant.
And I’ve never stopped.
Over the last 30 years, I’ve read close to 2000 books. And I’ve recognized that the #1 action that all successful humans take is that they commit to reading every day.
My personal reading strategy:
1.     I read for 30 minutes every morning – no matter what. I get up 30 minutes earlier than I have to, just to make sure I fit my reading into my day. I will go without food before I go without my reading. Reading is more nourishing.
2.     If there is a book I want, I get it from the library first. Why? The library is free! If I really like the book and want it to become a part of my personal library, I’ll then buy it on Amazon. If not, I send it back to the library without spending a dime.
3.     On Sundays, I spend an extra hour or so reading. I read journal articles, online blogs, and industry newsletters. Carving out extra time enables me to keep up with the mountains of electronic information without getting overwhelmed.
My life is very different now than it was 30 years ago. The reason I am who I am today is because of reading.  Reading empowered me to believe in myself. I want the same for you!
Go get your library card today!
Thanks for reading my blog post. Take care and stay connected.

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14 thoughts on “From Government Cheese to Successful Nurse Business Owner”

  1. Hi Renee,
    What a wonderful story!

    I grew up "poor"…a housing project kid. The book mobile drove through our neighborhood every week. I was always sitting on the corner waiting for the book mobile.

    My library card was my ticket to adventure and future dreams.

    I, too, have a doctoral degree and have done so much with my nursing career.

    Who knew a library card could be so important!

  2. Hi Donna. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. My favorite day in school was when we got to order books through this catalog. I would take the list home to my mom and BEG her to let me buy them!!! I still get excited when I walk into a book store. But yes…changed my life and continues to change others. Love it!


  3. Renee,

    I knew there was a reason that I connected with you and continued to read your blog. Today's blog described a life that mirrors my own. With me it was 40 years ago, married at 19, 2 boys that are 18 months apart and a crash and burn marriage.

    I went to live with my best friend who was going to a community college. I went in to the guidance councilor and asked what I could do in 2 years to be able to support my son's. He said "We have openings in the nursing program" so I took all the tests I needed to take, started the program within 2 months. Because I was legally separated and hadn't worked in the last year I qualified for assistance including the government cheese. We looked forward to that cheese and I still eat yellow American cheese to this day. I became addicted to grilled cheese sandwiches.

    Anyway, I buckled down and with 21 credit semesters and summer semesters I graduated in 2 years and have been able to be independent ever since. I didn't quite have your drive and the closest BSN program at that time was 3 hours away (We didn't have computers yet) so my formal education ended there but I have been an ER nurse for most of my career and now work as an Emergency Nursing Night Supervisor. Although I love what I do, I will be retiring in September but the reason I can retire and remain independent was because of that one statement "We have openings in the nursing program" and because of government cheese.


  4. Thanks so much for posting this Debbye. I always tell nurses that they never know when they might influence someone to become a nurse…AND…that influence may change someone's life dramatically. Everyone has the opportunity to say…this is NOT the life I want…and change it!


  5. Thank you Eileen and Keith. I was hesitant to share but it's the truth. And if my truth can inspire someone else to take ownership of their life, then I'm willing to admit everything about my life – the good, the bad and even the ugly!


  6. Renee, reading your story touches a nerve for me. The honesty & sensitivity in your writing restores my faith in humanity…truly.

    It's rare to be able to do work that is also a "calling." You have answered your calling in life! I look forward to reading more of your work!

  7. Great work, Renee! It's not easy to open up like that: for me it's taken many little steps to get there. You even use your story to offer useful advice. Congratulations – Greg

  8. Your story is so inspirational. I started out struggling to make ends meet and went on to become LPN then paid way to Rn school. traveled and had a pretty decent career.
    Then the Board of Nursing went with a bizarre , strange false allegations and made my life living hell. Attorney fees, no work due to having license marked, now I qualify at the end of my career for food stamps. I cannot get a job in nursing due to the license marked under investigation.
    Yes I read books now, at the law library. All the money is gone to lawyers, I used to have retirement funds and own a house it is all gone now. I guess you might say Im retired only I did not choose this. And believe me no patient no work involved. I still have my pride I did not cave in , i'd rather live outside and beg on the side of the road instead of cave in and sign an agreement. "plea bargain , nope not me not when I did nothing wrong, and the BON AZ wants to 'help ' the hospitals pocket book. So I do have my books, not by choice either but being forced to defend myself. thanks for the blog !

  9. The AZBON is now notorious for what anonymous states. With the help of social media and the groups of nurse victims of corporate bullying of nurses through nursing boards this can be major in putting walls to protect patients. There are now many cases, especially in Az, that big corps dictate board members. How is that one would ask?? Board members are corporate in their off hrs.

  10. Anonymous. So sorry you've had to spend the majority of your time reading about the law!!! It's so sad that nurses are being bullied in the workplace without any support. That's why I spend the majority of my time doing my part to stop it!

    Don't give up!

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