For Lori Mayfield, nursing wasn’t her first career. Two weeks prior to her 40th birthday, she graduated with her associates degree in nursing. But she didn’t stop there. Despite becoming a nurse later in life, Mayfield shows just how far you can go when you’re dedicated.
Prior to becoming a nurse, Mayfield was a law enforcement officer in Southern California. After suffering a lower back injury in 2003, she wanted a career that would provide some flexibility but still allow her to serve her community. She chose nursing, which to some would seem almost as physically demanding, but she was up for the challenge.
“I knew that it could be challenging, but I also knew that nursing would offer many opportunities for me to work in an industry that would allow me to help others,” said Mayfield.
She also weighed the benefits that a nursing education would provide her personally. “I knew that with proper body mechanics and the help of others I could protect my back. I also knew that nursing afforded many options that would allow for the physical limitations of my injury.”
But for Mayfield, it all came down to a career she was passionate about. “The motivation to continue with nursing was the ability to help others,” she added.
Because of her back injury and subsequent back surgery, Mayfield knew she couldn’t work the floor as a nurse, so she decided to further her education to provide herself with more opportunities. One month after finishing her associate’s in nursing, she started a bachelor’s degree program in nursing.
Then, while working on her bachelor’s degree, she applied to Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions (RMUoHP) to enroll in the Doctor of Nursing Practice – Family Nurse Practitioner (DNP-FNP) program. She was accepted and started the doctoral program just one month after earning her bachelor’s degree.
The years spent earning her various degrees, while balancing work and family responsibilities wasn’t easy, but Mayfield knew her motivations. And she had the support and dedication to keep moving forward.
“I have an amazing support network with my husband, children, and extended family,” said Mayfield. “I also learned early on to have a good balance of school, work, and home life. I developed good time management skills and learned to use my time wisely. I scheduled family first. I have not missed a family event for school, which has been good for my mental health. This helps me, and my family, allow for the time needed to complete the rigorous academic work associated with advanced degrees. Knowing that I was not missing quality time with my loved ones enabled me to fully focus on my academic pursuits.”
Likewise, said Mayfield, “In the workplace, I learned to focus on work while at work, and to assure I have a supportive team there as well.”
As she was completing her DNP-FNP degree, Mayfield worked as a nurse manager in a cardiac specialty unit. By her final semester, before graduating in April 2018, Mayfield had received job offers in family practice, cardiology, electrophysiology, nephrology, and even as a nursing professor at the local university, Dixie State University.
While at RMUoHP, Mayfield shared that despite the rigorous coursework, “It was an amazing experience. The faculty and staff were so supportive and knowledgeable. I really appreciated that the faculty were all working professionals in various settings, as well as educators at RMUoHP. For me, it gave them credibility. I gained so much knowledge and grew as a medical professional more than I thought possible.”
Reflecting on her experience as a student, the support she received, and her desire to help others, Mayfield decided to take the job teaching at the University.
She began her career in academia—teaching future nurses, and helping them progress in their academic and professional journeys.
But her time of juggling work and school wasn’t over. “Due to some restructuring at the hospital I was working at, I worked as both a professor and stayed on as a nurse manager for several months after completing my FNP-DNP and passing boards,” explained Mayfield.
When she was able to leave her position at the cardiac specialty unit, and having earned her family nurse practitioner certification, she began working as a nurse practitioner at the university clinic in addition to her role as a full-time professor.
“I have loved it,” exclaimed Mayfield as she recognizes the strengths of her own unique career journey. “My journey helps me to have compassion and empathy for the students. Because I have been a student for so many years while balancing family and work, I understand what they are going through, which in turn allows for compassion and empathy.”
And her passion for learning can’t be ignored, having been in three continuous degree programs. “I try to pass that passion along to the students by assuring each and every lecture, assignment, discussion, etcetera has a purpose to it. When I develop curriculum, as well as deliver it, I do so with the student in mind. I try to make my instruction applicable to the profession,” said Mayfield.
“I also provide the why of each assignment to the students so they are more invested in what they are doing,” she added. “My students can see, through my journey, what can be accomplished in the profession of nursing. I tell every cohort and every student, ‘Do not let others tell you what you are or are not capable of. Do not let others put limitations on what you can accomplish. You know who you are and what you are capable of. If you want it, you can accomplish it!’”
And she herself truly believes that. Shortly after completing her DNP, Mayfield and her husband began to see a need for a recovery/detox center in their local community. So in February 2019, they opened a recovery/detox center for substance abuse. At first, Mayfield, who was already working two jobs, just provided some consulting services. But by January 2021, the detox center had fully expanded to include residential and day treatment, as well as an intensive outpatient program.
Mayfield explained how her education scaffolded her further along. “I felt, from the very beginning of my DNP program, that mental health is a specialty that family practice providers should tread very lightly in. The medications prescribed alter the chemicals in the brain and are not a fix all for mental health. I felt that if I were to ever feel that my career would take that path, I would obtain the education necessary to be competent in that field.”
With the opening of the detox/recovery center, the focus was solely on detox. “In the detox phase, there is not a focus on mental health, because they are withdrawing from the substance and are not as mentally stable as they should be to focus on their mental health,” said Mayfield. “We saw the need to expand in the other aspects of recovery, namely residential and outpatient treatment.”
Even the local university clinic had mental health counselors for students, said Mayfield, “but nobody that could effectively and efficiently manage the medications, so the students were being referred out.” She saw the gap between what was provided and what was needed.
For her, it was the catalyst. Recognizing the need for mental health services at both the university clinic and the detox/recovery center, Mayfield headed to RMUoHP once again.
In January 2021, Mayfield began RMUoHP’s online Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) program.
“This additional education will have a significant impact on the recovery center. The majority of our patients come into treatment with a history of trauma—often severe trauma. Likewise, the majority of these patients have never been treated for their mental health, and instead ‘self-medicate’ with substances to compensate for the depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar, schizophrenia, etc.,” explained Mayfield.
“The ability to address their mental health on a more comprehensive level, and start mental health medications as needed, will provide a more solid foundation for them to focus on their recovery.”
Mayfield finished the PMHNP in April. For her the entire process was worth it, because she was motivated from the beginning, even before the start of her nursing career, to simply help others. And as a nurse practitioner, psychiatric mental health specialist, and professor, she’s truly doing just that.