Published March 17, 2018
CENTERTON, ARKANSAS – A step in the direction of pursuing an education later in life led Chickasaw citizen Michael Shropshire to his true calling.
After working as a welder for 20 years, Shropshire decided it was time to get serious about what he really wanted to do with his life. When both his mom and dad struggled with their health, he witnessed the work nurses put in to provide care for their patients.
“During the time my mom and dad were both sick and being in the hospital with them I got to see nurses in action,” Shropshire said. “I could see that a good nurse not only made a difference to my parents, but also to me.”
This realization sprouted within him, took root and formed a full-fledged plan. He wanted to obtain a nursing degree and give back, like the nurses he had observed caring for his parents.
It led him on a path that turned his life upside down after the age of 50.
Back to College
After obtaining an associate degree in general studies from the University of Arkansas in Fort Smith, Shropshire was undecided on how he should proceed.
After both his parents had passed on, he realized it was time to decide. He and his wife, Micaela, moved to northwest Arkansas to be closer to her mother. It was then that he enrolled at Northwest Arkansas Community College and completed his pre-requisites in nursing. Soon after, he got his nursing degree.
Shropshire was able to utilize educational resources through the Chickasaw Nation to further his education.
“While I was going to nursing school the Chickasaw Nation really helped,” he said. “I got financial help each semester through their program helping people go to school. It really helped me be able to go back to school.”
He proved that no matter your age, you can go back to school and get a degree. He found those who wanted to pursue nursing had to stick it out. It wasn’t for the weak-minded.
“Nursing school is a very intense program,” he said. “I feel fortunate that my old brain was able to take it in and get through it.
“We’re responsible for people’s lives. It needs to be tough.”
Answering the Call
For Shropshire, nursing is more than a job, it is a duty – one he is proud to do.
After graduating with his nursing degree, he began his first job in Bentonville, Ark., at Northwest Medical Center, working on the medical surgical floor, and quickly moved to the cardiac floor.
While he enjoyed his time at the medical center, he persistently applied for a job at a Veterans Affairs hospital
Eventually, his determination paid off and he began working for the VA as a registered nurse in behavioral health.
Shropshire said it’s one of the best jobs you could get.
“The hospital is all about the veterans,” he said. “They are our customers, but they’re also the reason we are there. It’s a very good place to work. I’ve found a place where I fit in really well.”
Working in behavioral health means he deals with veterans facing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), personality disorders and other mental health issues.
He said learning how to handle veterans with PTSD was important for knowing how to stay calm in an escalated situation.
“The veterans give a lot for our country so it’s good to be able to give something back to them,” he said.
“When you see hundreds of patients you don’t always remember their names, but you remember their faces. When you see somebody and they do still acknowledge you, it makes you feel good. You’ve made an impact. It makes you feel like you’re doing your job well.”
Shropshire attends Chickasaw Council meetings in his area, staying connected with his heritage and culture.
His grandmother, Dixie Lane, was an original enrollee. She instilled her Chickasaw heritage in Shropshire’s father and himself.
“I’ve always been proud that I’m Chickasaw because that’s my heritage,” Shropshire said. “It’s something to be proud of. The saying the ‘unconquered and the unconquerable,’ it gives you that drive.”
For everything the Chickasaw Nation has done for him and his education, Shropshire said he would like to give back someday.
“It’s important to keep the culture and heritage alive,” he said.
The combination of Shropshire’s passion to follow his dreams and the help from the Chickasaw Nation has changed his life, sending him on a new journey.
“I would tell anybody you’re never too old to go back to school,” he reflected. “If it’s something you feel like you want to do, it’s never too late.”