Alexis Dauphinais always considered going into the medical field, following in her parents’ footsteps.

A second installment in our series showcasing students who attended Polk County Public Schools and are either pursuing degrees in STEM fields or recently started working in STEM-related jobs.

Dauphinais, 28, is not the traditional college student on the campus of Southeastern University. She graduated from George Jenkins in 2009, got married, traveled with her Marine Corps husband and started having children before she returned to Polk County.

As a sophomore she pondered becoming an archaeologist or art history teacher, but a medical class offered her a new perspective, “I did a project on nursing and it really made the idea of being a nurse concrete in my mind.”

Along with JROTC, she says. “I truly believe that helped shape part of who I am today. The leadership skills I learned have proved invaluable. I learned a lot about being a leader in that course, along with the extracurriculars it offered.”

Following her two-year degree at Polk State College, Dauphinais researched next steps. “After talking to several SEU alumni I decided to apply,” she says. “Their small class sizes and beautiful campus were very appealing. The classes have been challenging since day one, but I have always felt prepared.”

As a junior, she has just started clinical experiences, which have been positive so far, she says. As she prepared to start at Lakeland Regional Health, she was excited. She hopes to spend the summer working “as a patient care assistant at a local hospital to help get hands-on experience for my future career.”

Roughly 500 to 600 nursing jobs are open every day in Polk County. The salary for a registered nurse averages $55,000 a year, compared to the median household income of about $46,000 per year. Dauphinais’ long-term goal is to become a certified nurse midwife, a position that pays an average of $100,000 a year in Florida.

“As a mom of three young children myself, I am very passionate about women’s health in general and think a career in midwifery could be very fulfilling,” she says. But she’s not sure she’ll stay in Polk County, saying the wanderlust she learned as the daughter of a military man, coupled with marrying a Marine, has not faded. “But I am here now and will just see what the future brings. Central Florida has some really great hospitals that all have great opportunities to offer.”

Exciting and Scary

Attending nursing school at Southeastern leaves Dauphinais excited. “I love learning so much new information and just the culmination of all the knowledge I have taken in over the past few years in prerequisite courses coming together — it’s a really great feeling.”

But it’s also scary as a wife and mother of three young children — Tristan, 5; Peyton, 4, the only girl; and Ashton, 2. “Not only is school a financial burden but also a huge burden on my time with my family. But we know it will pay off.”

A Non-Traditional Student

After graduating George Jenkins, Dauphinais worked for a year before marrying Andy at age 21 in 2012. When he was transferred, they moved to Southern California, where they “loved every minute of it,” she says.

“While I was out there my husband encouraged me to pursue an education in nursing. He knew it was something I wanted to do and he said he would support me all the way,” she says. “By the time I finally enrolled in my first classes we had had our first son, Tristan. So pretty much my entire college career has been as a mom/wife/employee/student. I struggled at first learning to balance my time, and it wasn’t until we settled back in Polk that it got easier.”

They returned to Polk County in 2015, which is when she started at Polk State. She transferred to Southeastern in the fall of 2017.

“Being close to campus rather then taking online courses made a world of difference. Polk State truly is what prepared me for my ‘so-far-so-good’ success at Southeastern.”

Her kids have always known mom as a student. Peyton was born while she was taking online courses, and Ashton was born during spring break.

“Since I have started the nursing program they love to ‘help me’ study,” she says. “They will bring me my books or help me with my stethoscope or pen light. Of course, on occasion they get upset that I don’t have as much extra time as I once did, but they are really good sports about it, and my husband is a wonderful support through it all.”

Time management is the hardest part, she says. “Making sure that all the normal things that come along with motherhood like laundry and meals are done and now that Tristan is in kindergarten we are adding in all his school activities, and then finding time to study. But with the help of my village — it really does take a village — I make it happen.”

Like other students, sleep is sometimes in short supply. But they all make it work by supporting one another. And babysitting for her children.

“My fellow nursing classmates are incredibly supportive and encouraging, and my instructors are all phenomenal mentors.”