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Sharp Health News

A nontraditional path to nursing

Aug. 5, 2019

A nontraditional path to nursing

Sharp Grossmont nurse Shana Holiday has a unique resume that ultimately landed on health care.

Steve Jobs once said, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” For some, that path takes shape early on. But for Sharp Grossmont Hospital nurse Shana Holiday, a string of unique endeavors that she wouldn’t trade for the world provided a range of wisdom that she now applies to her current position.

“I feel like I’ve lived nine lives,” jokes Holiday, who works on the stroke floor in the hospital’s 5 East unit. Indeed, while hers may be considered a path less traveled, she would tell you that the experience of every curve in the road was worth the effort.

The early days
Raised in San Diego, Shana moved to Flagstaff, Arizona after high school and began working in the health food industry. There she rediscovered her passion for learning, a healthy lifestyle and nutrition. Those years also lured her into working for a river trip company, packing supplies for adventurers taking two-week trips down the Colorado River.

Putting out fires
After a brief stint of city life in the San Francisco Bay Area, Holiday returned to Flagstaff for more adventure. In the summer of 2001, she signed a contract with the Hotshots, an interagency division of the federal government assembled to help fight fires, called “handcrews.”

“We were sent to remote parts of federal land to manage uncontrolled fires,” she says. “We’d hike into the fire zone, sometimes arriving at night. My tool was a modified shovel with the end chopped off.” Her handcrew traveled from fire to fire in buggies, and often flew across the country to help.

“We slept in the fire zones, and I don’t remember even having a cover when I slept,” recalls Holiday. That summer was one of a blackened face from the soot and a pair of sometimes unhappy lungs, and she eventually returned to Flagstaff.

Building a resume
Her next job? “I really like to build things, so I entered the carpenters union as an apprentice and launched into carpentry on my own,” says Holiday. “My dad had his own contracting business, so I had pretty much grown up on job sites.”

She would go on to take classes in civil engineering at the University of Arizona, and work her way up in the carpentry business. She even worked on a project expanding the Flagstaff Medical Center.

“I think back to that and realize, how ironic,” she says. “I remember looking at that hospital and thinking, ‘What do you do when you work at a hospital?’”

Her civil engineering studies would eventually come to a halt when she realized it didn’t quite fit her spirited personality. “I had an internship, and it felt a bit sterile to me,” she says. “I wasn’t really connecting with it as a career.” She would move on to helping her partner run a steel business, both in the field and in the office.

The path to now
Her next — and final — stop before she found her way to health care was Cathy’s Vacuum and Sewing Shop, where she met and befriended some customers who were nurses. Her beau at the time also had an aunt who was a nurse.

“I remember his aunt talking to me about the nursing shortage, asking me if I had ever considered it,” Holiday recalled. She thought back on how certain interests over the years had remained consistent.

“I was always passionate about helping people, about health and wellness, in how things worked and were built, and that included anatomy. I took the plunge and enrolled in the University of Arizona’s nursing program in 2011.”

After completing her studies and moving back to San Diego, Holiday volunteered at Sharp Memorial Hospital and eventually landed at Sharp Grossmont in patient relations, before settling into her current role in the hospital’s stroke unit.

“I certainly have a lot of stories to share with my patients,” she jokes. What is most clear is that she has found a career that covers the bases of the things she holds important, and what she is passionate about.

“I come from an extensive holistic health background since childhood, so I am delighted that things such as integrative healing and wellness are being woven into patient care. It’s clear how much this improves the experience for patients, family members and co-workers, and it makes me so happy to be able to care for people at that level,” she says.

It also supplies that human connection she knew she would eventually find. “My greatest loves in my job are the patients I have the honor to care for and the people I get to work with every day.”

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