For some students, knowing ‘what they want to do as an adult’ is not immediately apparent, even after attending college and/or joining the workforce. Higher learning at any age has become a growing trend in education, as students look to better themselves, improve their job prospects, or follow their passion.
CUNY is the nation’s largest urban university system with 24 campuses throughout the five boroughs of New York, serving over half a million degree/credit students. The CUNY School of Professional Studies (CUNY SPS) provides online and on campus programs that meet the needs of adults who are looking for a seamless way to finish or transition into a Bachelor’s degree, earn a master’s degree or certificate in a specialized field, advance in the workplace, or change careers.
CUNY SPS recently asked their students to share the stories of their educational experiences. For anyone contemplating a career shift or pursuing a professional area of interest, Victor Ty is a great example that it is never too late to change your career. Here, he shares his experience in moving from a 20-year career in fashion, to becoming a nurse after his son was diagnosed with autism.
Meet Victor Ty
From Necklines to Nursing
I was a dBase III+ programmer by trade, and spent more than two decades in the fashion industry. Initially, I developed software to manage an inventory of silk yarns and moved on to designing textiles and apparel. Finally, I managed manufacturing and marketing for the whole vertical operation. But in 2011, I returned to school at age 40 to learn a new language and a new set of skills.
I had been around nurses for most of my life. I am married to a radiation oncology nurse and our circle of friends consists of nurses from different areas of medicine. My motivation to become a nurse stemmed from the diagnosis my son, Nicholas, received at 18 months: Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) refers to a group of complex neurodevelopment disorders characterized by repetitive and characteristic patterns of behavior and difficulties with social communication and interaction. The symptoms are present from early childhood and affect daily functioning. ASD affects over 3 million people in the US. The latest analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 68 children has ASD.
An Avocation Becomes an Occupation
When Nicholas was five years old, my wife and I got a call: Nicholas’s school bus had been involved in a fender bender. No one was hurt, but all of the kids were brought to Elmhurst Hospital for evaluation. When we got to the ER, we observed that the attending doctors were perplexed as to how to assess the special needs children. Given the unfamiliarity of the ER, they made noises or offered a gamut of different non-verbal cues to signal their distress and anxiety. The medical professionals seemed to have little exposure to individuals with developmental delay. I knew then that I could help, not only Nicholas, but countless other children. My goal was to bridge the gap between patients, physicians, radiation therapists, nutritionists, psychologists, and social workers—especially for those individuals with special needs. As a parent of an autistic child, I understood that as the diagnoses of developmental disabilities continue to rise, more patients with special needs would be in the health care system and need help.
I was already immersed in the special needs community, collaborating with academes from Queens College, in what they called the NY State Task Force for Autism. But after Nicholas’s ER incident, I heard of plans to create an online nursing program within the CUNY system and immediately wanted to sign up. I met two of the professors during a presentation at Maimonides Medical Center and asked, “When can I start?” I had a Monday to Friday work schedule, which disqualified me from a “traditional” RN-BSN program in the city, including those with night schedules, because a clinical schedule would cut into my work schedule. CUNY SPS allowed me to study online at night, and still gave me ample time to sleep and be ready for the workday ahead.
So far, my favorite courses are Community and Global Health. The professors give me even more fuel to continue my endeavor in promoting sensitivity to the needs of individual patients. They immerse students in the culture of caring, taking into consideration all the aspects of our community—locally and globally. They give me the ambition to develop ideas to help improve the delivery of health care to everyone.
I now know that in order to continue your education, you need a commitment to learning and time, and an understanding that learning is an experience. I encourage aspiring nursing students to learn the language of medicine and map the human body. I advise them that it is possible to get a nursing degree without going into debt. I encourage them to network early on in their schooling and engage in volunteer experiences.
A Family Affair
Today, my wife and I are both radiation oncology nurses in two different institutions, so we get to brainstorm about best practices and share our great success stories. My plate is full from 7 am to 2 am with work, school, and play, and I enjoy every minute of it because I feel that I accomplish so many things every day. I even find time to be involved in my community by volunteering at my son’s school, where I established a simulated outdoor playground experience in an indoor gym that is a safe and accepting venue for kids with Autism. I design and create models of imaging machines such as MRIs, PET/CTs, and radiation delivery machines to be used as teaching tools for pediatric oncology patients and some adults, too. My other son, Benjamin, and I are also developing a Braille system for prescription labels to make it safer and more efficient for the visually impaired to manage their medication.
Learning Never Ends
This is my sixth year of practice, all in radiation oncology; however, my passion is to teach. I know that the experience at CUNY SPS has given me more motivation in achieving my goal to teach nursing students one day. I am now 46 years old and slated to complete my Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN) in 2017. I plan to proceed with a Master’s in Public Health and teach on the college level. I look forward to training new nurses on the true calling of the nursing profession, and return community involvement in schools, hospitals, and churches in order to change the paradigm of preventative care.
For more information on enrolling at CUNY SPS and to read other inspiring stories from CUNY SPS students, click here.