Called to Nursing

June 10, 2020

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Alison Hoffman had long worked in health care related fields by the time she enrolled in GW Nursing’s B.S.N. program. After serving as an officer in the U.S. Marines for five years, she went back to school for a master’s degree in exercise science.

She enjoyed working with patients for decades at the consulting business she started in the field of health education, fitness and wellness, but Ms. Hoffman knew she would eventually go back to school.

In the field of exercise science, “I would never be in charge, exercise science doesn’t have licensing exams, nursing does. A nurse would always be in charge,” she said.

As she contemplated her future, Ms. Hoffman also struggled with her own health issues.

“I found myself extremely ill with no diagnosis despite searching for nearly three years and visiting many different doctors and specialists,” she said. Her cognitive functioning suffered and in 2016 Ms. Hoffman was diagnosed with Lyme disease. 

As she started healing, Ms. Hoffman made plans to go back to school. She took anatomy and physiology classes at Northern Virginia Community College to “test my brain,” she said. Once she proved to herself that she was well enough, she considered her options.

“I felt like God was pulling me into nursing,” she said. “I desire to be a part of the solution in the health care system where people are treated with the full dignity and respect they deserve, at all times.

On a whim, Ms. Hoffman pulled up GW’s website, not even realizing the university offered nursing. As a veteran, she received credit for ethics class through GW Nursing’s Veterans B.S.N. initiative, designed to help those who have served transition to civilian careers as seamlessly as possible.

She hadn’t stepped foot in a formal classroom for about 30 years, and some things had changed. Increased reliance on technology enhanced her learning, Ms. Hoffman said. She was, however, shocked by the amount of homework. “I did more work in this program than I did in undergrad and graduate programs combined,” she said.

But she had always taken a systems approach to caring for people, and “that’s what nursing is,” so the program suited her.

She drew on her own experience for inspiration. “I struggle daily with residual effects of the Lyme and co-infections but I know that I have a calling to become a nurse and to provide better care for people like me who were seeking answers,” she said.

Along her nursing school journey, Ms. Hoffman also received some positive encouragement. She was awarded the Johnston Trust Scholarship for the summer of 2019.

“To me, receiving that scholarship confirmed that I was doing the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons. In other words, attending nursing school at GW and focusing my full energies on that and not on trying to earn a living simultaneously to offset the costs. I was so energized and encouraged by receiving this scholarship,” she said.

Having graduated in May, she will be working as a Progressive Coronary Care Unit (PCCU) nurse at Inova Fairfax Hospital, a job for which she applied after clinical experiences in nursing school.


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