Following in Her Hero’s Footsteps Leads Nighthawk to NOVA’s Nursing Program

February 23, 2024

Maya Smith’s hero, a close family friend, completed NOVA’s nursing program and now works as a surgical nurse at Boston Children’s Hospital. Inspired to follow in her friend’s footsteps, Maya is proud that she, too, is in the nursing program at NOVA’s Medical Education Campus (MEC). 

Portrait of Maya Smith

For Maya, her future nursing career is more than just a way to make a living. In her own words: “Nurses are angels, and that’s just that! It doesn’t matter if you’re a CNA, a tech or just starting in the field. What matters is that we care for people in their darkest moments and are here to help them.” 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background. 
When I was back in high school, I participated in numerous protests on issues such as human rights, food insecurity and climate change.

I’ve always wanted to do something to help people and make a difference in their lives, but I wasn’t sure of the best way to do that. So it was an easy transition for me to pursue a career in healthcare. 

What brought you to NOVA? 
I started at NOVA in August 2021 and have done four semesters of pre-nursing. I took all of those classes at the Manassas Campus because that’s the closest to me. Now, after being accepted into the nursing program in Spring 2023, I’m here at the MEC. 

Tell us about your experience at NOVA.  
I remember it was during my second clinical when I genuinely felt like a nurse for the first time. I had been there only nine weeks. I’d gone through the processes, been given all these tools and learned a lot. Armed with that knowledge, I was able to make an accurate assessment — a real clinical judgment! That was really an “aha” moment for me and my professor. I had been waiting to genuinely feel like, “Okay, I’ve made it.” It was fantastic! 

Clinicals are where all of your classes come together. You get to work with actual patients and interact with people. You also get to see PT (physical therapy) and OT (occupational therapy) come together. So it’s a lot, but that was my moment! 

What would you tell a student coming to NOVA? 
Try your best. And if you’re not willing to try your best, don’t waste your time. The nursing program is challenging and very rigorous. There’s not much free time, and you’re not going to grasp what you need to if you’re not going to give it your all. 

If you mess around, you’ll be disappointed with the results. With my prerequisites, I thought I didn’t have to study or try that hard. Then I got my first bad grade, which was a learning experience for me. Know that there’s no room to slack off once you’re here. You are given everything you need to succeed, but it’s up to you to take advantage of those opportunities. 

Where do you see yourself after NOVA, or what career pursuits are you exploring? 
Although my role model is a pediatric surgical nurse, I don’t have it in me to work with sick children. 

I want to work in high-stress environments while I’m young. Once I get my RN license, I’d like to be an ICU nurse. After a few years of experience in the ICU, I plan on getting my BSN (Bachelor of Science in nursing) at George Mason University. 

From there, I want to become a travel nurse. Then I want to get my master’s and later get my doctorate in CRNA (Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist), a new nursing doctorate. I want to become a nurse anesthetist. For me, this is about helping people while they’re in surgery, not wanting them to wake up or feel anything during a procedure. It’s about trying to help wherever I can. 

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