Alumni Spotlight: Heather W. From “Little Nurse” to Nurse Leader

Please enjoy this inspiring essay from Heather Watts, who earned her BSN — and just recently her MSN in Forensic Nursing — from Aspen University.


Graduation…the moment we get to walk across the stage, shake hands with some of our mentors and professors, be handed our diplomas and proclaim to the world, our family and our friends… “we did it!”

My educational journey began when I was two years old when my parents gave birth to a pre-term infant. My first memory of my brother Travis is seeing him in a big plastic box, covered in tubes and wires. My next memory is watching the nurses interacting with him and taking care of him. Travis was eventually diagnosed with cerebral palsy, and I became a ‘little nurse’ at a very young age, BUT I would not change a moment of that for anything. He has helped me become the person I am today, and for that, I am beyond blessed and grateful.

As for my more traditional educational journey, I became a certified nursing assistant at 17 years old. When I graduated high school in 1998, I immediately began a Licensed Practical Nurse program at the local vocational/technical school, graduated, and obtained licensure in 1999. I thought I was content. 

However, as we all know, life changes, things happen, we grow, we change, and we find new dreams. My new dream was to be a Labor and Delivery nurse. Therefore, I needed to return to school to advance to a Registered Nurse. That found me entering the local community college Associate’s degree program. In 2008, ten years after graduating high school, I found myself once again graduating, this time with my Associate’s degree. A few weeks later, I obtained licensure as a Registered Nurse and was blessed with a Labor and Delivery job.

Once again, I found myself feeling content and settled…however, life has a way of throwing curveballs at each of us. My next adventure found me at a new hospital, leaving behind the quiet country life with the small-town community hospital and heading for a bigger, busier, inner-city hospital. This career change also brought about the requirement for me to obtain my bachelor’s degree. Initially, I gritted my teeth, stomped my feet, and wanted no parts of returning to school. Then I found Aspen University.

I completed my Bachelor of Science in Nursing program with Aspen in November of 2017. During my RN to BSN program, I found myself inspired and eager to learn. These were different feelings for me. Not that I was not inspired or anxious to learn before, but I had always put forth the minimum effort. I did what I needed to do to pass. After earning my BSN, I did not feel as content as I thought I would. I found myself wanting more. With my studies at Aspen, I found myself wanting to pour every ounce of myself into learning. This eagerness to learn and desire to make a difference in the lives of others lead me to seek Aspen University out once more. 

I began my Master of Science in Nursing with a Specialization in Forensic Nursing in December of 2018 and conferred my degree on January 29, 2020.

Though it was a hectic year and I sacrificed a lot, I enjoyed every minute of it, even the late nights/early mornings, the tears, the feelings of “what was I thinking, and I cannot do this,” moans to my husband about having to write another paper. However, all those tears and hard work have paid off.

I am now the clinical manager of a level three neonatal intensive care unit in an inner-city hospital, and I love my little patients. I am not 100% sure where my education will take me in the end, but what I do know is that I plan to inspire and encourage the nurses that I work with and all those that I meet along the way.

As the great Brazilian footballer, Pelé once said, “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.”

Use our comprehensive RN to Forensic Nurse: Forensic Nursing Guide to learn all about the forensic nursing industry, or check out our RN to MSN and BSN to MSN in Forensic Nursing programs that Heather Watts completed. 


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