From Debt to Freedom: My Journey as a Nurse Paying Off $30,000

Written by: April Waddell, Retired RN, Finance Coach and Educator For Nurses


Debt: It’s Just a Number, Not a Moral Compass

As a finance coach and educator specifically for nurses, I’ve noticed how the topic of student loans is often avoided. This is exactly why I’m compelled to share my story. My journey began with $30,000 of debt, but remember, debt is merely a number.

Debt isn’t “good” or “bad” and you are not a “bad” person because you have debt. It doesn’t define your worth or your skills as a nurse or a person.


The Emotional Rollercoaster of Student Loans

Confronting my debt initially brought a whirlwind of emotions: guilt, shame, and a sense of being financially ‘behind’. If this sounds familiar, I want you to know it’s okay to feel this way. Your feelings are valid, but remember, they don’t define your entire journey.


My Strategy: Clear Goals, Essential Choices

To tackle my debt, I made some significant choices. I decided to live at home, forgo owning a car, and manage long commutes. Additionally, I chose the snowball method for debt repayment, prioritizing smaller debts first for those crucial psychological wins.

Remember, your journey might look different, and that’s absolutely okay. It’s all about finding the approach that suits you and your unique situation.


You Are Capable: The Power of a Nurse’s Skillset

Here’s something crucial: as a nurse, you already possess the most vital skill – critical thinking. You make life-altering decisions every day, balance complex situations, and find solutions where others might see dead-ends. These same skills are your assets in navigating your debt. You’re not just capable; you’re extraordinarily equipped to handle your debt.


Your Journey Is Unique: No Comparisons, Just Your Path

Remember, your financial path is your own – no comparisons necessary. You’re not running a race against anyone else. Embrace your unique journey, just as you embrace your unique role as a nurse.


The Journey: Making Choices That Fit You

My strategy to pay off my debt taught me resilience and gratitude. But they were my choices. Reflect on what aligns with your values and situation. Adapt your strategy as you go, and remember, there’s strength in flexibility.


Paying Off the Debt: Celebrating Your Wins

Every time I reached a milestone, I celebrated – it was essential for maintaining my motivation. Celebrating your milestones is key, and it can be as simple or as elaborate as you prefer. Treat yourself to a relaxing spa day, indulge in a new book you’ve been eyeing, savor a special meal at your favorite restaurant, or enjoy a peaceful walk in a park to reflect on your progress. Your achievements, big or small, deserve recognition. Your milestones, reached in your unique way, are absolutely worth celebrating.


A Message to Fellow Nurses with Student Loans

You, my fellow nurses, are already equipped with the skills needed to tackle student loans. Your journey is yours alone. Don’t let debt define you or dictate your self-worth. Find your path, trust in your abilities, and take it one step at a time.


About April: From ICU Nurse to Financial Coach


April is the founder of NurseMoneyDate™. With a background spanning 7 years in healthcare, primarily in pediatric ICU nursing, she deeply understood the financial challenges nurses face, especially highlighted during the COVID pandemic. This realization propelled her transition from nursing into financial coaching.

Now retired from nursing, April dedicates herself to empowering nurses to thrive financially. As a finance educator, she focuses on building nurses’ confidence and clarity in finances. She employs a unique approach that leverages the problem-solving mindset inherent in nursing, helping them to save effectively, invest wisely, and enhance their earnings. For more insights and guidance, connect with her at @nursemoneydate on Instagram.

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