Nursing a Future

Amy Joshua is meticulous about lists. They anchor her packed workdays, school and family.

If a list was to summarize Joshua’s life, it’d look a lot like this:

  • Obtain an associate nursing degree
  • Beat cervical cancer
  • Move to Grand Forks and begin work at Altru Health System
  • Enroll at UNDs R.N. to B.S.N. program

Before embarking on a nursing career, Joshua, armed only with a high school diploma, found success in the insurance industry, which provided solid pay and regular work hours. However, when her duties shifted to someone in Malaysia, she paused to consider her next step.

Joshua has honed her communication skills, gaining an aptitude crucial for nursing. At one point, having earned a nurse aide certificate, she also cared for people with mental disabilities in a group home.  

“I really enjoyed that job and thought that would be something I could do,” she said.

So, she took a chance on college.

Two weeks before signing up for classes, though, Joshua received devastating news. She had cervical cancer, an ailment that took her mother in 2007, and later, a cousin.

“My driving force from here on has been to do the most I can do with my life while I am here,” Joshua said.

She persisted and, three months after her diagnosis, Joshua underwent a surgery that ushered in her remission.

In the six years since, Joshua has obtained two associate degrees from Lake Region State College, and last August, joined Altru Health System in Grand Forks.

“With the associate R.N. degree, management jobs are hard to secure, Joshua said. “You need your bachelors degree for most management jobs. That is why I took the extra step in getting my B.S.N., so that I can advance my career.” 

Amy Joshua, UND '19

As the first in her family to graduate from high school on time and earn a college degree, Amy Joshua hopes to inspire her children to chase their goals.

Amy Joshua walking with coworker

Amy Joshua works three 12-hours days at Altru Health System, while finding time for family and online classes at UND.


As one might have guessed, Joshua already had a list of action steps:

In spring 2019, after house hunting in the fall and establishing a new family routine, Joshua achieved an accomplishment she hopes to maintain — a semester of straight As.

That milestone sparkles even brighter on the backdrop of Joshua’s duties as a mom, nurse and student.

Her days begin at dawn when she checks her to-do list as well as the whiteboard that holds every family member’s schedule. The boys have soccer and tennis and baseball lessons. Joshua’s fiance handles their home schooling, while she crams three 12-hour shifts at Altru into her week.

Starting at 7 a.m., Joshua is busy checking on patients, administering medication, delivering reports to physicians, fulfilling orders, such as CT scans and dialysis, and helping colleagues. She'd love to pick up even more hours, but her team is understanding of her schoolwork.

“Right now, it is hard when you have a full-time class schedule,” Joshua said. “Thursday, I usually hunker down and do a solid eight hours (of studying).”

That involves participating in online discussions with UND professors and peers. The curriculum also requires clinical hours, which Joshua fulfills with a project at Altru Safe Kids, an injury prevention initiative.

Another academic obligation is the implementation of a quality improvement plan. For that, Joshua wants to focus on methods to prevent hospital-triggered pressure ulcers.

“(UND professors and instructors) know that we are working nurses, so they are having us take what we are learning in the class and apply it where we work,” Joshua said.  

Earning her B.S.N. degree this summer, she’s already envisioning another goal on her evolving list:

R.N. to B.S.N.
Current Job:
Nurse at Altru Health System
Tribal Affiliation:
Spirit Lake Tribe
Previous School:
Lake Region State College