Family Tragedy Led Her to Nursing

Andrew Faught, SMU News

At the age of 12, Florence Edwards, BSN ’22, was running errands for her mom. She crossed the street near her home in Sekondi-Takoradi, Ghana, and headed to pick up a few items from a nearby shop. Unbeknownst to Florence, her younger brother had followed, crossing the street behind her.

“I heard a car tire screeching, and people screaming and wailing,” she recounted later. “To my utter disbelief, my brother was on the street covered in blood. He’d been hit by a drunk driver who was speeding.”

Florence’s brother was pronounced dead at the hospital. Two years later, tragedy befell her family again. This time when her father died of a heart attack, due, in part, to untreated high blood pressure. The twin catastrophes changed Florence in ways she’s still coming to terms with today. One of those ways set her on a path to become a nurse.

“I wish I could have done something to revive him,” Florence says of her brother’s accident. “Maybe even knowing any first aid before he was sent to the hospital would have helped. My brother’s death and my dad’s poor health until he passed away heightened my desire to be in the health field.”

Grandma would be proud

Florence, who moved to the U.S. in 2002, when she took work in a pair of Sacramento skilled nursing facilities. She enrolled in a nurse assistant license program. She was drawn to assisted living from her experience helping her grandmother in Africa, including washing her clothes and making her bed.

“My experience with my granny made me choose caregiving, and I loved working with the seniors because they did not only remind me of my late granny, but they used to give me good advice and they even encouraged me to go into nursing,” Florence says. “They said I was intelligent, and that I would be a great nurse from how I cared for them.”

Now in her 50s, Florence enrolled at SMU’s to fulfill that promise to herself to become a nurse. Financial aid and scholarships have been a godsend, allowing her to stay enrolled when her son, who was supporting her during school, was furloughed because of COVID-19.

A mother of five, Florence wants to return to Ghana to care for patients, advocate for essential supplies and state-of-the-art equipment, and even build hospitals. On a trip back home in 2019, she volunteered at a one Ghanaian hospital and saw a nurse insert a catheter without lubrication because patients are expected to pay extra for it—but the woman was too poor.

“They just inserted it, and she was screaming,” says Florence, who went straight out to buy two large tubes of lubricant for the hospital with her own money.

Nursing, Florence says, is a “dream career. I’ve always cared for people, even people I don’t know. It’s part of my nature.”


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