September 19, 2017

This nurse shared her journey from KFC to RN—and it went viral

Daily Briefing

    Editor's note: This popular story from the Daily Briefing's archives was republished on March 8, 2019.

    Hoping to give herself a confidence boost, Faye Lewis, an RN at Memorial Medical Center, recently posted a picture of her work badges over the years, tracing her journey from a KFC employee to an RN working on her PhD—and the post now has been shared more than 100,000 times.

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    'Always remember where you came from'

    Lewis, 27, recently started a doctorate program at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Nursing in the hopes of eventually becoming a nurse practitioner. But on Sept. 6, during her second week of graduate school, she said she was "having a rough day," so she decided to post a picture of all her work badges to remind herself what she has overcome to care for herself and her 7-year-old son, A.J.

    The picture outlines her career trajectory as she pursued her nursing degree—a challenging progression that involved juggling two jobs, school, and raising a child, leaving her with almost no time for a social life.

    Lewis, who graduated from Lanphier High School in 2008, worked part-time between 2008 and 2013 at KFC, eventually climbing the ladder to a managerial role. During the same time period, she also worked as a nurse's aide at Memorial Medical Center—and she further enrolled in Capital Area Career Center in Springfield, Illinois, where she graduated in 2012 from the LPN program.

    In 2014, Lewis graduated with her associate's degree in nursing from Lincoln Land Community College. After graduating, she returned to Memorial Medical Center as an RN and completed her bachelor's degree in nursing at Benedictine University in 2016.

    Lewis—who is still working as an RN— is expected to complete her PhD program in 2021.  

    While juggling her professional and educational obligations, Lewis also overcame several personal challenges: In addition to raising her child as a single mother, Lewis in 2013 lost her father and three of her other family members in a house fire.

    'An integral part of a great nursing team'

    While Lewis initially posted the photo of her work badges on a private setting as "encouragement for myself ... to keep going," her friends' response to the post encouraged her to make it public—and it promptly went viral, garnering more than 100,000 shares and 4,000 comments as of last week. "You know it warms my heart that people can get inspired and motivated by my story," said Lewis

    Lewis added that Memorial has been very supportive of her and flexible with her schedule. "Memorial's a great place to work," she said. "It's a great place to grow and learn and develop."

    And Cathy Steckel, the director of nursing operations at Memorial, said Lewis is an "awesome" nurse who will accomplish her professional goals. "Her story certainly speaks to the passion she has for nursing," she said. "She's an integral part of a great nursing team at Memorial" (Olsen, State Journal-Register, 9/14; Witkos, Fox Illinois,

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