From American Samoa to North Dakota
A freshly registered nurse shares her story
All nurses have a story and were led to their career choice. They work hard to get where they want to go and many make sacrifices. Danielle Pualau has done just that.
Pualau moved all the way to North Dakota from American Samoa in July 2017, leaving her husband and daughter back home while she began to work to become a registered nurse, something she had been dreaming of doing since she was young.
While being raised by her great-grandmother, Pualau, 11 at the time, watched her be hospitalized due to a heart attack. She watched her grandmother in pain due to a procedure and while she later learned that it was normal for that procedure, it motivated her to want to become a different type of nurse.
Pualau had been working as an LPN for 11 years, working for the VA for almost 10. After running into an old LPN instructor who is from Devils Lake, she learned about the North Dakota’s nursing program.
Hitting her nine-year mark for the VA, she decided to move out here with the goal of moving her family with too. She applied for the nursing program through Bottineau’s program in Minot, but she didn’t actually think she would be accepted, but when she was, she and her family had to make a hard decision.
“The VA wasn’t able to work with my clinical schedule and my class schedule, so I had to resign. Prior to that, I had planned to move everyone out here and after that it just didn’t quite work, we wouldn’t have had the income I had and it would have been unstable with my husband coming out and trying to find a job and I think my daughter at the time needed the security and to stay where she knows,” Pualau explained of the whole situation.
The VA was her first job out of LPN school, so resigning was very hard for her, but she was taking steps towards a new career. She always had the goal of RN.
Of course, resigning and staying far from her family was only the first bump on her road to her new degree. Shortly after moving, Pualau noticed something strange.
“I noticed that I was really tired and I was eating strange food. Maybe two weeks later, I found out I was pregnant, so that switched everything up,” Pualau said.
Pualau and her family didn’t want to base the decision on her pregnancy because while she had her 6-year-old daughter, she had faced miscarriages since her, so she didn’t to make decisions on it, though in the end she gave birth to her second daughter, Violet, in Minot.
She continued to work hard with an incredible support system of those from her church, who helped her with supplies and clothes for the baby, her old coworkers from the VA, her classmates, and the employees she met at Trinity working as an office assistant.
Her instructors worked hard with her to get her required hours, working to get it all done before Violet was born.
“My water actually broke while I was at work. I drove myself to the hospital and was just going to do it by myself. I didn’t want to inconvenience anyone, even those who had offered. But my manager showed up with another coworker. From the time my water broke to when Violet was born, it was two hours, and they were there for that,” Pualau explained of the support she got.
Her family, of course, has also worked to support her from afar in all the ways they can.
When asked what has kept her going, Pualau said, “I prayed. A lot. This is out of my comfort zone, being so far and the uncertainty of the weather plus being pregnant. My faith has definitely been strengthened.”
After an awards ceremony a few weeks ago where she won an award for excellence in nursing that her mother and daughter had flown to attend, Pualau headed home to American Samoa to be with her family again.
“I’m really glad that my daughter will be here to see it,” she had said. “It’s been really difficult and I feel like we’ve been through it all together. It’s really nice to have her here. She can see that I didn’t do it for nothing.”
Pualau will be skipping her graduation ceremony because her oldest daughter, who is in kindergarten, will be graduating and she would rather be there for her after these long months apart.
She has enjoyed North Dakota greatly and if it didn’t mean uprooting her family and separating her oldest from Pualau’s mother, who she has become so close to, she would love to raise a family here, saying it would be a great place. She loves that the state has reached so far to bring in people from other places to give them a good program and place to experience.
(Prairie Profile is a weekly feature profiling interesting people in our region. We welcome suggestions from our readers. Call Editor Mike Sasser at 857-1959 or Regional Editor Eloise Ogden at 857-1944. Either can be reached at 1-800-735-3229. You also can send e-mail suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.)