RCBC nursing student works toward success after turbulent past

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For almost a decade, Jessica O’Shea fought to get life back on track.

An arrest is what finally set her free.

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As an Army National Guard officer and domestic violence survivor, O’Shea made strides to gain financial independence from her husband after being a stay-at-home mother to their four children.

“I was in an abusive marriage for many, many years,” O’Shea said.

O’Shea is not alone. According to the most recent statistics, Burlington County reported 3,821 domestic violence offenses in just one year.

By having little means to support her family alone, O’Shea’s financial struggles kept her in the relationship. After she reached out to a commander in New Jersey and began to apply for jobs, she eventually secured a position in the New Jersey Army National Guard Medical Detachment.

When her husband was finally arrested and disciplined by the military, she was able to file for divorce.

It was a new beginning for the now 35-year-old single mother.

“My advice for other women in a similar situation is to stick to what you can do and the resources that will move you forward,” she said.

Using her military benefits, O’Shea went back to school for nursing.

She is taking advantage of Rowan College at Burlington County’s 3+1 nursing program with Rowan University that allows students to earn their bachelor’s of science in nursing for a fraction of the cost.

She was also recently awarded a $1,000 scholarship from the New Jersey League for Nursing.

“Domestic violence affects the mind, body and spirit,” said RCBC President Dr. Michael Cioce. “The fact that Jessica has had the persistence and courage to find a better future for herself and her family is an inspiration to others who may feel the same way she once did.

“Rowan College at Burlington County is here to help everyone achieve their goals to transform their lives,” he added.

In addition to raising four boys and being a full-time student, O’Shea works full-time for the New Jersey Army National Guard in Sea Girt in the Recruiting and Retention Battalion, as well as the Medical Command.

“I’m blessed for the community I’ve had both in and out of the military,” she said. “I look forward to moving in a positive direction.”

After she finishes the 3+1 program, O’Shea said she wants to work in an intensive care unit or emergency department for two years and then become a certified registered nurse anesthetist. She said she would like to eventually work in a humanitarian capacity with a focus on first-line trauma care.

“I love serving. In medicine, you have the ability to change someone’s life,” she said.

By sharing her story, O’Shea wants to give hope to others affected by domestic violence.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, seeking resources or information, or questioning unhealthy aspects of their relationship, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), The New Jersey Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-572-SAFE (7233), or Providence House Domestic Violence Services of Catholic Charities at 1-800-360-7711.

RCBC also offers students free behavioral health counseling in the Student Success Center. To speak with a behavioral health counselor, call 856-222-9311, ext. 1582 or visit rcbc.edu/counseling.

O’Shea’s story is the first in the series of profiles in honor of the college’s 50th anniversary. RCBC’s 50 stories for 50 years will feature students, faculty, administrators, alumni and the college community.

Anyone interested in being featured can contact rcbcnews@rcbc.edu. To follow along on social media, use #RCBC50Stories.

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