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Pursley-Huey overcomes challenges on journey to DNP

LaShawn Pursley-Huey, DNP, RN, delivers her presentation at the 2023 UCSC workshop on July 14. (Photo by Kenny Bybee)
LaShawn Pursley-Huey, DNP, RN, delivers her presentation at the 2023 UCSC workshop on July 14. (Photo by Kenny Bybee)

In the bustling hallways of Memorial Hermann where the air is filled with the urgency of health care, one practitioner stands out for her exceptional dedication and passion. LaShawn Pursley-Huey, DNP, RN, a seasoned nurse with 32 years of experience, has carved a successful career, and become a beacon of inspiration and mentorship for aspiring health care professionals.

A speaker at the annual University Classified Staff Council workshop on July 14, Pursley-Huey shared her story of personal perseverance, resilience, and mentorship. Through her unwavering dedication and commitment, she has proven that a remarkable journey awaits those who dare to dream and pursue their passions.

“Whatever fuels you, whatever pushes you, whatever motivates you, just keep pushing forward when you find those challenges,” Pursley-Huey told the crowd. “A lot of people don’t share their vulnerabilities. You see them in their positions, and they look like they have it all together. People sometimes think I have it all together, and I don’t. When I tell my story, others start to see that’s not the case.”

Pursley-Huey’s journey began in 1991 when she joined Memorial Hermann as a patient care assistant (PCA), without any special certifications or degrees. She embraced her role wholeheartedly, finding joy in caring for patients and learning from experienced colleagues. Little did she know that this humble beginning would set the stage for an extraordinary career.

As Pursley-Huey devoted herself to her work, her infectious personality, and unwavering dedication caught the attention of the nursing staff. The nurses at Memorial Hermann fell in love with her compassionate nature and recognized her growth potential.

Throughout her career, Pursley-Huey demonstrated an unwavering commitment to both her patients and the nursing profession. She has worked at Memorial Hermann for more than three decades, witnessing the evolution of health care and embracing opportunities for personal and professional growth.

Pursley-Huey highlighted the impact of certifications and degrees on earnings, illustrating how investing in education can significantly increase lifetime income.

Taking her own advice to heart, Pursley-Huey embarked on a journey of higher education. She enrolled in Houston Community College and earned an associate’s degree in science, overcoming personal barriers such as math anxiety and learning disabilities. Her determination and resilience pushed her to persevere through multiple attempts at challenging courses, like college algebra.

“I struggled with college algebra and it took me 10 times before I finally passed the class,” Pursley-Huey said. “People would ask me ‘Why do you keep throwing away your money over and over?’ But in the end, I had the drive to finish what I started.”

Pursley-Huey completed her associate’s degree in nursing in 2003 and her thirst for knowledge led her to the University of Houston at Sugar Land, where she pursued a bachelor’s degree in nursing. This experience ignited her love for learning and deepened her understanding of leadership and community. Her educational journey continued at The University of Texas at Arlington, where she pursued a Master of Science in Nursing, specializing as a family nurse practitioner.

The challenges persisted, but Pursley-Huey’s dedication never wavered. She recalled the struggles she faced, from staying on task during online courses to overcoming distractions. However, she triumphed over these obstacles, motivated by her internal drive and hunger for personal growth. Her passion for nursing and her patients propelled her forward.

Following the completion of her master’s program, her daughter, Ashley Huey, gifted her a pin engraved with “Dr. Pursley.” Thought it was a playful gesture, it sparked the realization that a doctoral journey was calling her.

Pursley-Huey enrolled in Grand Canyon University’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program. This path, too, was filled with challenges. She encountered struggles within the program but also found solace in her research project on hypertension — a topic that deeply resonated with her personal health journey. Her three-year endeavor taught her valuable lessons and reinforced her commitment to making a difference in the lives of others.

Throughout her journey, Pursley-Huey has been guided by a desire to give back and mentor young people, aspiring to join the health care profession. She established the “Sneakers to Heels” mentor program, designed to bring together like-minded people. Their activities ranged from organizing luncheons and community service to providing guidance and support to aspiring nurses.

Her dedication to mentorship extends beyond her professional life. She invests her time and resources into nurturing the next generation, even reaching out to young people she encounters in her everyday life. Pursley-Huey’s profound impact on those she mentors is a testament to the power of a supportive network and the importance of paying it forward.

As Pursley-Huey reflected on her journey, she acknowledged the pivotal role her family played in her success. Her husband, Kenny, and children, Ashley, Justin, and Christopher, have been pillars of support. Pursley-Huey also credited her mother, Willie Ruth, who raised her as a single parent.

Pursley-Huey’s journey hasn't been without its share of loss. Her grandmother, Thelma, held high hopes and aspirations for her. When Thelma passed away, LaShawn made a promise to make her proud. That promise has fueled her drive to succeed.

Pursley-Huey stands on the precipice of a new chapter in her life. Though she has achieved remarkable success, she acknowledged that there is more she wishes to explore and additional opportunities for growth.

“Hopefully I can encourage others who may find themselves running into challenges,” Pursley-Huey said. “My story shows that no matter what those barriers are, you keep punching and eventually the door will give way.”

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