"My grandmother had a stroke when I was 16. I helped take care of her and the home health nurse was so good with her. Grandma would get frustrated, but the nurse helped her through whatever the problem and was who made me decide what I wanted to do with my life," Crabtee said.
The goal has not been an easy one to obtain, and she still has a long road ahead of her, but Ashley is making great strides in spite of many obstacles. She took the TEAS test, an entrance exam she had to pass to be accepted for practical nursing classes.
She succeeded in that, and was working full-time. She continued working on weekends at Barone Care Center for more than a year, but keeping that up along with the heavy class schedule at college and spending 20-25 hours for homework and studying, plus caring for her 2-year-old daughter, Aaliyan, 4-year-old stepson, Cayson, and a 7-year-old stepdaughter, Addison, became too much.
"We have the girls pretty much full time and it didn't leave any time with them. Yet going from a two income family to only one was an adjustment. My partner, Chris Starbuck, began working 60 hours a week and takes the kids out some on weekends so I can study. Also, I couldn't have done it without my mother, Marcy Harp. Any time I felt like I was failing or just to listen to me cry or yell, my mom was there. She is so amazing."
Ashley worked hard and made straight As all through school. "School is pretty important to me, but I don't know how I did it."
She began the LPN classes at Crowder College in Nevada in August of 2011 and graduated June 30, 2012, as valedictorian of her class.
Then there were clinicals -- hands on training for nursing students in real-world settings.
"Clinicals are taking what you've learned from January to June and going two days a week and putting them to use in the real world," Crabtree explained. "Some competencies are required or you won't pass nursing school, but I tried to do them all as it gave me better experience than just being required."
Crabtree had to be at the Nevada Regional Medical Center at 6:30 a.m., so she took Addison to her sister-in-law who kept her until the school bus came. Aaliyah went to an understanding child care provider who allowed her to come early. Crabtree said it was "pretty stressful" because she tried to study before she got the girls up, fed and ready to go.
This type of work ethic showed up in the classroom also, according to a fellow student, Kayla Davis. "Ashley was just great to help anyone. No matter how busy she was, she never turned anyone down that needed help and she could help them."
"Your classmates become your family. You spend more time with them than you do your own family," Crabtree explained. "I just wanted everybody to make it and if I could help somebody, I wanted to. It's not just about me."
Crabtree said it was good to have the classes available locally. "It would have been a lot more difficult for me if I had to drive somewhere else. I'm not saying I couldn't have done it, but it would have been harder. Also, I'm glad Nevada has the capping ceremony. Some schools have quit doing that. This ceremony seemed to say to me that I was half-way through. At times you think it is never going to end, but then, you think, 'Wow,' I'm going to make it."
Not everything is work and no play at LPN classes. A pregnant classmate came into class bringing a balloon with water leaking from it. The instructors got very excited and tried to get her to go to the hospital thinking she was telling them her water had broken. As for the classmates, they wanted her to stay and they could see a baby born and they would deliver it for her. The classmate was playing a joke on them. A classroom delivery, wasn't in the cards, but she went to the hospital a few hours later; and this time, the arrival of her daughter was truly imminent.
Crabtree did her clinicals in Nevada Regional Medical Center on regular medical/surgical floor where patients go after admission, in surgery, OB, ACU which is the Acute Care Unit where patients go before surgery, PACU-Post Acute Care Unit for patients after surgery, Intensive Care and Emergency.
"I loved it," Crabtree said. "If you truly care about helping, getting their body functions all over you doesn't matter because you care about your patients and want to help them get better."
She is taking her RN prerequisites beginning in August which consist of one math class and two science classes. It will take from August to May to complete. "They are pretty hard so I've split them up as they are very in-depth. Hopefully, by May 2014, I will have my coveted degree."