Clinician Spotlight: Getting Scrappy with Janalen Windsor

Healthcare Jobs

I came from a pretty strict household. All sorts of rules, restrictions, timers, alarms, things like that. And I’ve always been a pretty independent person. So I very much pushed back on my parents, saying, “If you weren’t so strict, we wouldn’t be having these problems.” Our relationship was very broken as it was, and they had their own upbringings that made them the way that they are. It got to a point where my parents were like, “You want your independence, go and have it.” So they kicked me out, and my whole world kind of fell apart.

Janalen Windsor

I was 16 at the time, still in high school. I bounced around between friends and family for the next couple weeks. But I lived in a small town, and word was getting around. I was like, I need to get out of here.

I’ve always been a planner. Always had my five-year plan. When my parents kicked me out, that definitely threw me for a loop because this was not according to plan! I went to Idaho and worked as a housekeeper, barely making minimum wage. It was a lot of hard work and long days, and I think I barely broke even that summer. My feet would hurt every single day. I’d come home exhausted! Still to this moment, I recall that as the first time I ever felt like I worked hard. 

I finished high school, graduated early. By then I was living with some cousins and was working trying to pay for school. Even with a pretty good FAFSA scholarship, I just wasn’t making enough money. I had taken on all these expenses: car, medical insurance, phone—you know, things that normal 17- or 18-year-olds didn’t have to pay for—and I was feeling so beyond overwhelmed. 

Janalen with friend

I’d been working at a yoga studio, and thought I wanted to be in the fitness industry. I’d go online to buy the course to be a personal fitness instructor, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Every single time I would stare at it and couldn’t do it. It just didn’t feel right. I kept getting these thoughts and impressions that it was not my time, even though I’ve always been a planner. A week later the pandemic hit, and my cousin who I was living with said her CNA class moved online and for super cheap—and I was like, THIS is why I wasn’t supposed to do it! 

So I became a CNA and worked that as my third job. How it would go is, I would work the morning caretaking shift from 6:00 AM to 2:00 PM, and then do 4:00 PM to 9:00 PM at the yoga studio. I also worked at a real estate sales office on the weekends. That was a 9 to 5. So that’s how I managed those three jobs.

I was working at the University of Utah hospital on an Internal Med floor—a step down from ICU. But the ICUs were so full that we were getting ICU-level patients, and on a day shift that regularly had five to six patients at most, I was getting eight ICU-level patients. I didn’t sit down for eight or nine hours at a time. I was already so emotionally exhausted. It was this constant battle of I’m working too much or I’m working too little, I’m not making enough or I don’t have time for anyone else. 

My ultimate goal was to try to find this work-life balance, but I was working to the point where I didn’t have any time for school, I didn’t have time for extracurriculars or anything like that. So I was just done. 

I had a friend at the hospital, and we talked about being river guides down in Moab. In the end, though, she was like, “That sounds fun, but I don’t think I’ll ever leave the hospital because this is comfortable.” I realized I was staying at the hospital not because I enjoyed it but because I was comfortable. I was not happy. And so I quit the next week and immediately started looking for jobs that I didn’t have to think about, that would be kinder to my school schedule, and retail seemed to be the best fit.

Janalen on river

Turns out, I absolutely hated it. I went from having a purpose and saving lives to just zipping up zippers. There were a lot of scheduling issues and pay issues. And I was not having it anymore. 

One of my good friends told me about Nursa. She still works at the hospital and does Nursa shifts on the side, just because it’s faster pay than the hospital, and you can pick where you want to work and for how much. She was like, “Hey, I know you’re burnt out being a CNA, but this is just quick and easy cash.” I asked her a billion questions, like what do I wear, what are the expectations, was it hard—things like that. And I decided great, I’m going to try it!

Once I had done one or two shifts, I realized that I could make it more of a full-time gig. I got to create my own schedule based off of the pay that I wanted to make, as much or as little as I needed depending on the week. That’s when I became sold on it. I quit that retail job and started doing Nursa full time.

One really cool thing that I think our hospital unit prepped us for was expecting the unexpected, and so I started going into these shifts with no expectations, saying I don’t know what to expect but I’m going to do my best!

Soon I realized I wasn’t the only Nursa CNA at these facilities, and I started asking more questions, like what facilities do you like to go to, which ones are not good, things like that. It started to create more of a community for me and other CNAs working with Nursa.

Where I think I separate from other CNAs is they might be doing it to get more experience on their way to nursing school. My plan was to become a river rafting guide, and I knew I’d get burnt out again. So I knew that I would be doing Nursa for a short period. There was an end. In many shifts I would sit and write “two more weeks, two more weeks.” 

Janalen river guide

When I became a river guide, I made myself a promise that I wouldn’t work as a CNA again. But the way that this industry has gone has not been fantastic, so I will still be working as a CNA when I come back after the summer, just to fill that small gap. 

I don’t want to work in the healthcare system for the rest of my life, but the experiences I’ve had help me bridge into other opportunities. I have this experience in leadership, teamwork, fast-paced decisions, all these lessons that I have learned while being a CNA.

One thing my mom would tell me and my brother, like in sports, she’d say, “It’s time to get scrappy.” Get scrappy with the ball, go for every ball, dive for it. And I very much use that same saying in my life. There’s a time ‘nin a place to get scrappy. I started learning how to build websites from YouTube. I’ve run into situations where I can say, hey this is what I can offer, or even say, hey I’d love to build my portfolio—will you let me take over your social media? 

All of these things are at the tip of my fingers, but why aren’t they being utilized, you know? Nursa was one of them, an opportunity that’s right there, but people don’t know about it. So I tell all my friends about it, all my friends tell their friends. It’s a way to get scrappy—to maybe not be a CNA forever, too. Now they can pay for their own nursing school, or have that extra cash to go and buy a photography course, or do something else with it. It’s very much about getting scrappy with what you have.

Written by Laila Ighani

Laila Ighani is a writer and editor for Nursa™. On the eternal quest to find the right work-life balance in her own life and curious to a fault, she loves researching topics and sharing ideas that might make others’ lives a little easier and more fulfilling. After years of teaching English, she finally feels that working in this role at this company is exactly where she needs to be. In her free time, Laila enjoys exploring the great outdoors with family and friends and reading novels accompanied by a good cup of coffee.

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