GARRISON To call cerebral palsy a disability would be a misnomer in the case of Carla Pease.
Having cerebral palsy since the age of 3 didn't disable her dreams of becoming a nurse. Instead, it inspired it.
"It was brought to my attention that physically, nursing isn't the best career for me to go into, but I would rather have 10 seconds of something meaningful than a lifetime of doing nothing special," Pease said in a profile on her that ran in The Minot Daily News on Dec. 31, 2008.
Submitted Photo - - Carla Pease, center, a nursing instructor at the registered nursing program at the Fort Berthold Community College works with nursing students Lindsey Smith, Robin Fox and Kelianna Loose. Even as a child, Pease knew that she wanted to be a nurse. She hasn’t let her disability – cerebral palsy – stop her from achieving that goal.
She is now a nursing instructor, a public speaker and a mentor to high school students with disabilities.
"There was one young lady that I spoke to at FCCLA," Pease said, recalling a public speaking engagement. "I was doing a presentation for them and she said she had cerebral palsy and, because of the speech I gave, she thinks she's going to pursue a career in nursing."
For Pease, the seed that was her career goal began to grow during the 18 years that she spent at the Shriners Hospital in Minneapolis, where she would have quarterly stays due to her cerebral palsy.
"The Shriners nurses are the ones that made me want to be a nurse," Pease said. "I give those ladies credit."
It was those same ladies who would tend to Pease when she was sick or cranky.
"I thought, 'Wow, that's neat they would take care of somebody that wasn't even their kid,'" she said, adding that she received such a great amount of care there that she wanted to pay it forward.
She began her career with licensed practical nurse courses through the Dakota Nursing Program at Fort Berthold Community College, in New Town, and at Williston State, through Trinity Hospital in Minot.
Being a nurse with cerebral palsy would certainly be a task for Pease, who fought with determination to meet her goal. She struggled with poor depth perception and left-sided weakness, but instead of giving up, she taught herself how to do things differently.
"I had to teach myself how to do the procedure differently," she said. "The clinical instructor I had at the Dakota Nursing Program encouraged me to find my own way of doing things, which is wonderful."
Pease said that she spoke with many students with disabilities who "have so many doors slammed in their face." With the Dakota Nursing Program, she didn't experience such barriers.
"I think that's why I went toward them," she said. "There weren't too many nursing programs in North Dakota that were very keen on having a student with cerebral palsy. I was asked a lot of questions as far as 'Do you think you can do the work?' The
program was so welcoming, I just couldn't believe it. Being a nursing student is hard enough without a disability, but to have a disability and still have all that encouragement, I don't think I would have been a nurse without Fort Berthold Community College or the Dakota Nursing program."
Janet Johnson, the nursing coordinator at Fort Berthold Community College, described Pease as a very determined nursing student.
"She knew what she was going to do already then," and that was to become a nurse practitioner," Johnson said after meeting Pease when she started the nursing program at Fort Berthold Community College in 2006.
After graduating as a licensed practical nurse, she went on to receive her accelerated Bachelor's degree from Western Governor's University in Salt Lake City, Utah. The class was done online from the comfort of her home in Garrison, where she has lived her whole life, "all 29 years of it," she said.
While attending university, Pease was employed by the Three Affiliated Tribes as a registered nurse.
While she served as a nurse, her next step being a nursing instructor was something that Pease didn't anticipate she would ever do.
"In nursing school, we had to pick a job that we didn't think we would ever do as a nurse," she said. "I said 'I would never be a nursing instructor.'"
However, her attitude soon changed.
From the 2008 Minot Daily News story, she said, she received "quite a bit of attention" from the national media. Through that attention, she was contacted by a nursing student at a community college in Rhode Island who told her how important the story was to him. When he heard that she didn't think she would ever be an instructor, he encouraged her to think otherwise.
This past September, the Fort Berthold Community College asked Pease to come back, this time as a nursing instructor for registered nursing students. Johnson noted that the college is the only tribal college to have a registered nurse program; it began there in 2009.
Pease said she is thankful to the college "for not only making me a nurse, but bringing me back to help make some future nurses."
"She's dependable, she's hard-working, she works well with the students," Johnson said, noting that Pease, at 29 years old, is younger then her students. "I knew her work ethic and I knew her goals. She likes teaching, she does a really good job with it."
Johnson also noted that there is nothing that could stand in Pease's way of nursing.
"She's had surgery on her leg one time and she came to clinicals with a cast on and never said anything about it," Johnson said.
While Pease works on this goal, she is slowly climbing the career ladder: to teach at the registered nursing level.
"You have to be enrolled in a masters program or have a masters degree," said Pease, who is currently working on achieving that via an online program through the University of Cincinnati. When all is said and done, she hopes to teach at the registered nurse level at the Fort Berthold Community College, as well as be a nurse practitioner and have her own practice.
"I want to focus on preventive health care in a rural setting," she said. "That is my goal."
Her anticipated graduation date is May 2013.