Growing through grief: LPN student finds her calling while caring for her mother-in-law

Hailey Greenwalt, left, celebrates graduation from LSU Shreveport’s Licensed Practical Nursing Program with classmates Mariah McIver and Sara Pace. Hailey passed the state LPN licensing exam earlier this year and is now working as an LPN with a local health system.

Hailey Greenwalt’s heart-wrenching experience caring for her cancer-stricken mother-in-law helped lead her to a career in nursing.

While finishing her senior year at Byrd High School in Shreveport, she took classes to become a certified dental assistant. She worked in that field for a year.

Susan Greenwalt

“I always knew I was going into some kind of medical field. My dad’s whole family is in healthcare, so it kind of runs in my blood,” Hailey says.

She took a break from school to help care for her mother-in-law, Susan Greenwalt, who was battling cancer. Susan was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2016 but fought until the cancer overwhelmed her in 2020.

“They gave her two weeks to live,” Hailey says. “My husband Josh and I moved up our wedding date. We rushed getting everything ready so she could be part of it. She had just gotten out of the hospital when we had the ceremony and couldn’t be there in person but watched it on her phone.”

Susan had hospice services, but Hailey stepped in to help her family provide around-the-clock care.

“I basically became her home health nurse for those two or three weeks she had left. If anything, it made me want to become a nurse even more. My mother-in-law told me, ‘This is what you were meant to do’.”

With those words in her heart and mind, Hailey entered the one-year LPN program at LSUS in 2021. She said the compressed schedule is challenging – 11 classes in the first semester alone – but the instructors make all the difference.

Hailey says support from the LSUS LPN faculty and staff helped build her confidence as she progressed through the program and clinical rotations.

“The instructors are phenomenal. They are so helpful. I have never been to a school or classes with teachers like them. They go above and beyond,” she says. “They’re more than just teachers. “I was so terrified coming back into it. It took a little bit for me to get my confidence coming back up but they kept encouraging me.”

She juggled work, classes and clinical rotations while in the program. On top of the program costs, student have to pay a variety of fees, including the cost of the state licensing exam.

“The Louisiana State Board of Nursing Examiners application fee is $127. The NCLEX itself is another $200,” Hailey said. “It adds up.”

Despite her worries about whether she could handle the work, she excelled and graduated at the top of her class in 2022. She passed the NCLEX exam and started working as an LPN in January.

“I plan to eventually go back to school to do the bridge program from LPN to RN and hopefully work in labor and delivery,” Hailey says.