Sacramento resident Dolly Goolsby worked in the nursing field for 36 years before retiring in 2011. She earned her associate’s degree in nursing and worked as a licensed vocational nurse with adult patients at area hospitals, including Mercy San Juan and Sutter Memorial. She later went back to college, earning her RN and becoming a certified neonatal nurse. Goolsby worked in the neonatal intensive care unit at Kaiser Roseville for many years, and credits her college education with helping her find her “true calling” as a nurse. Since retiring two years ago, Goolsby has been enjoying traveling and exploring the world.

Nurse Dolly Goolsby (photo courtesy of Dolly Goolsby)

Nurse Dolly Goolsby (photo courtesy of Dolly Goolsby)

Did you start college right after high school?

Goolsby says she actually went back to school as an adult, after circumstances forced her to become the breadwinner for her five children. “I knew I needed to go to college in order to earn enough,” she says. Goolsby had been in Future Nurses of America while in high school, so decided to pursue that path in college.

Was going back to school a positive experience?

The nursing coursework was fascinating and gave Goolsby the knowledge and skills needed to become an LVN. To fulfill general education requirements, she also took classes that she never would have considered but ended up loving, like sociology. The general education classes ultimately helped her career too, says Goolsby, because they “helped me be more well-rounded” as a person.

Why did you return to college after working as an LVN?

While she enjoyed nursing, Goolsby says she was sometimes frustrated by the limitations placed on LVNs at that time. “You are trained to do so many things,” she explains, “but not all hospitals let you use those skills.” She began to explore the then burgeoning field of neonatal intensive care, and was quickly hooked. In order to specialize and work in that area, Goolsby needed to go back to school to become a registered nurse.

How was the RN program different?

The coursework was “very intense,” particularly when specifically related to neonatal care, but it was worth it. A class on psychiatric nursing was not her favorite, but Goolsby, laughing, says, “I stumbled my way through it.” And as it turned out, what she learned in that class “sure came in useful on the job.”

Goolsby says that her college education had a profound, positive impact on her life. Within just a few years, “I went from being a stay-at-home mom to being a charge nurse in a neonatal intensive care unit.”

Valerie Heimerich is a freelance writer out of Sacramento. She typically covers animals and community issues. She has volunteered and worked for many organizations helping animals and people.
Her work can be found at


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