CNA to Nurse Practitioner - YouTube Star's Immigration Story Will Give You Goosebumps

9 Min Read Published January 16, 2020
CNA to Nurse Practitioner - YouTube Star's Immigration Story Will Give You Goosebumps

Image via Instagram @mercygono

By: Jacob Uitti

Nurse Mercy Gono has worked hard to become who she is today. After moving from Liberia in West Africa to the United States, Gono learned English, studied hard, and has progressed through the nursing profession. Mercy started her medical career as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) and then continued on to receive her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and is currently working on her Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree to become a Family Nurse Practitioner. She obtained success in large part to her self dedication and belief in education. 

Today, Gono, who runs a popular YouTube with over 127K subscribers and Instagram platform, is continuing her education, both formally and informally, speaking with nurses in the workplace and through social media. As a result, she has positioned herself to one day achieve her ultimate dream: opening up her own caregiving organization to help people like her. 

To celebrate all this hard work and to get a sense of Gono’s motivations, we caught up with the nurse to ask her about why she first wanted to enter the healthcare field and what she thinks she’ll be doing five years from now.

Image courtesy of @mercygono

JU: Why did you want to become a nurse?

MG: I guess the short answer that you probably get all the time is because I like to be of service to other people. I like to help people figure things out health-wise. Being able to educate and help prevent especially common diseases, those are the things that have inspired me to become a nurse.

JU: What’s the long answer?

MG: Originally I am from Liberia, West Africa and the health system, if that’s what you want to call it, is really, really bad there. People die from very, very simple and common things. Me growing up there, moving here, and seeing that I have the opportunity to possibly change that or work towards changing that, I would say that’s my long answer. That’s what inspired me to go into nursing, to be able to go back someday and educate. 

JU: You’d like to go back to Liberia?

MG: Yes, to possibly educate. I can do it from anywhere but I would like to be able to go there and help there if I can. 

JU: Why did you work to advance your education in nursing and go from LPN to BSN now to a Nurse Practitioner?

MG: Originally, I thought that my LPN would be the only thing I would be able to get because when I started my schooling journey, being a first-generation college graduate, at that time that was my biggest accomplishment. But once I got that, I realized that it’s not my biggest accomplishment and that if I could do that, I could do more. So, that pushed me to go and get my Bachelor’s degree. 

Once I did that, I started to do bedside [caregiving] and I quickly realized that there is only so much I can do as a bedside nurse. I wanted to extend my education and also broaden my knowledge and my ability to make a change. That is why I decided to advance to the SNP level. 

Image courtesy of @mercygono

JU: What was the most difficult part of this upward transition?

MG: For me, specifically, I would say the most difficult part is being a foreign student. English being my second language was one of the barriers for me. That was a little bit of a struggle for me because sometimes I would say things differently or I would understand things differently, especially in the beginning. Not so much anymore but at the early stages that were hard for me. 

I didn’t have the same upbringing education-wise that a lot of people I went to school with did. I didn’t have a steady elementary school, pre-school, all of that. I went to the school when I could or when my parents could pay. It wasn’t until I came to the U.S. when I started middle school, that’s when I actually started going to school consistently. 

JU: What about being a family nurse practitioner appeals to you?

MG: Well, the one thing that appeals to me most is the fact that I have a broader community that I can serve versus picking something specific like pediatric or mental health. With family work, you can see anyone, anywhere from a pediatric patient all the way to a geriatric patient and anything in between. Just having the ability to serve a larger range of the community is what got me. 

JU: You have a popular YouTube channel. How has YouTube grown your ability and competency as a nurse?

MG: I have a love for education. I wanted to be able to educate others on their journey about what I have learned so far. But that has completely changed because not only am I educating, I’m also learning a lot. I will post a video for example about something just stating my experience and stating my opinion and then people would leave comments and some of these comments are people just saying, “Thank you, I didn’t know this.” But some of the comments will be educational for me. Some people will say, “Hey, if you didn’t know this, this is this and that.” That is something I didn’t expect from the beginning. I have really learned a lot throughout the process.

Youtube video

JU: How have you seen the Internet help shape and educate nurses in general?

MG: The Internet has, to me, connected nurses. I also have a nursing page on Instagram. I started this a few months back and it’s where I ask nurses to send me a picture and then send me a little caption of what they’re doing in the picture. 

But then that has changed and now I've started asking them to tell me a little bit about who they are, what they do, and anything they’re willing to share. That also has been very, very informative. It has enlightened me a lot because people share their stories. People have different stories, you know? 

  • Some people didn’t start school until they were in their 30s. 
  • Some people did it with five kids. 
  • Some people knew they wanted to be nurses when they were 18. 

Just the stories - the difference in everyone’s story is very inspiring. That has been really helpful for not just me but other people who see it, as well. I get those comments, like, “Thank you so much for doing this.” Because I’m thinking, “If I have five kids, I can’t go to school.” But then I’m seeing someone who has actually done it with five kids. The Internet has made it to where you’re able to see more of an everyday life person doing their nursing thing and hearing their stories versus maybe before where you really couldn’t see that unless it was a colleague you were working with. 

JU: You’re vocal about your profession and about looking and feeling good on your social channels. What about displaying this total package of yourself interests you?

MG: Well, with nursing comes burnout. I don’t know if you’ve heard that term before, but it’s very easy to get quickly burnt out when it comes to nursing. People who normally choose the profession of nursing are usually givers. They’re usually caregivers and they care and care and give and give to others but they tend to neglect themselves at times. 

So, my branding and my message are that you can have it all. You can still do what you love, you can still [provide] service to others, but you have to remember yourself. To take care of yourself because self-care is very, very important. You have to be physically and emotionally able to care for yourself in order to [do that] for someone else. 

Image courtesy of @mercygono

JU: What advice might you give to nurses looking to advance their careers? What are the benefits and pitfalls they should know about?

MG: I would say there are more benefits than pitfalls. Usually, people who advance their careers or education are older, married with kids, and stuff like that. So, I would say the only downside to that is that it can be really hard. 

For me now, I’m a new mom and the school has become very hard for me. Things that were easy for me before are a little bit harder now because I can’t just get up and go anymore, I have to do other things, I have to care for someone else. I would say that’s the only downside. It’s a little bit harder than someone who is younger or single. 

But the benefits I would say are endless because:

  • You have more opportunities to not only get better pay but to educate if that’s what you’re into. 
  • You can open up your own facility as a provider or you can impact an entire community. 
  • You can go back and become a nursing educator. 
  • You can be a manager somewhere. 

There’s so much you can do with an advanced degree that I feel like there are more benefits than anything. 

JU: What do you see for yourself career-wise in the next, say, five years?

MG: I would like to own my own practice, as I mentioned before. Somewhere where people like me or people with my background -- anyone would be welcomed -- but mostly those people who can see me and see themselves in me and be comfortable to say, “Hey, I look like her," or ."I am her or I can relate to her.” Because what I noticed with my community is that a lot of us don’t go to the hospital. A lot of us don’t seek help or health because we’re intimidated about so many things. Maybe we don’t understand what the provider is saying or maybe we don’t think they will understand us or we’re afraid of what they will say to us or they will use big words that we don’t understand. Stuff like that. I’ve seen that a lot in my community so I would like to hopefully own a practice where people would be able to come in because they’re more comfortable and because they feel like I can explain to them better and they can relate to me easier.

JU: What would you name it?

MG: Oh! I haven’t gotten that far yet. That’s a good question!

JU: How has nursing influenced your personal life?

MG: Personally, nursing as a career has improved my overall confidence. My self-confidence is much better because I know more, not only about education but about my health and I’m able to decide for myself - or, even when I go to the hospital I’m able to say this is what I want, these are the tests I want to get done. Because I’m not letting someone tell me all the time what I need but I’m also a part of the conversation and I also understand what they’re saying to me. So, that has improved my self-confidence. Then, I guess, income-wise, it could be better [Laughs] but it’s better than what it would be if I didn’t have nursing as a career. 

Image courtesy of @mercygono

JU: What does the notion of education mean to you today? 

MG: To me, education just means more opportunities. Education gives you endless opportunities. It takes you places where you wouldn’t be able to go or access otherwise. 

JU: Why is it important to help others?

MG: It’s important for me to help others because I see the importance of it if that makes sense. If you’re lost somewhere, for example, if you’re traveling somewhere and you’re lost and you just can’t find your way, it’s very helpful for someone to pick you up and show you the way and direct you in the right direction, to tell you where to go and I feel like that’s my philosophy. People, as I said before, die and get sick from the simplest things and the most common things that could be treated or even prevented only because they are ignorant of certain cures. But when you educate people, just simple education can prevent a lot of things that are killing people otherwise. 

JU: Last question. Your name is Mercy. Has the strong name you’ve been given influenced your career choice and how you comport yourself day-to-day?

MG: Definitely. I feel like you can’t have a name like that and act any other way. It’s a responsibility. So, it has influenced a lot of my life decisions and what I do. 

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Jake Uitti
Jake Uitti Contributor

Jake Uitti is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in The Washington Post, Interview Magazine, The Seattle Times, Alaska Beyond, The Stranger, and more. When not poring over a keyboard mid-interview, Jake can be found strolling around the Emerald City looking for the best ramen or cheese pizza slice. He is the author of two books from Reedy Press: 100 Things To Do In Seattle Before You Die and Unique Eats and Eateries: Seattle. The son of Ivy League professors, Jake grew up amidst books of French literature, but soulful meals, compelling conversation and thoughtful songs are his true loves. To keep up with Jake, follow him on Twitter

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