Nursing school is hard, but you can make it easier. As a nurse of 14 years, Latoya knows the struggle that many students go through in their journey to joining the field. How much medication do you give you a patient? When do you give it to them? These are crucial dosage calculation questions many nurses will have to ask themselves multiple times a day. With a test standing in their way, Latoya created The Dose Calc Academy to help get aspiring nurses over that hurdle.
Keep reading to learn more about The Dose Calc Academy and its work in educating our nurses of tomorrow.
Jouviane: Before we dive into The Dose Calc Academy, let’s learn more about the entrepreneur behind it. Could you walk me through your background, both personally and professionally, and offer any insight into how those steps got you to this point?
Latoya: To start, I’ve been an Oklahoma resident all of my life. I went to nursing school, and to be honest, I was surprised I got in because I filled out the application on the last day and at the last hour. Leading up to that point, I grew up poor, and while we had lights and everything, it definitely leaned on the side where we didn’t have a lot. As I was growing up, I really wanted to go into medicine and become a doctor. Then I realized that becoming a doctor would take a long time. And I still wanted to get a degree, be in healthcare, and start my career a little bit quicker so I decided to try nursing school.
So I got it, and I loved it. I loved the classes. I’m one of those people that if someone would pay me to go to school for the rest of my life, I would do it. I loved college and nursing school, even though I struggled in the beginning of my nursing classes because there’s a difference between traditional college and nursing school. There’s the regurgitation of knowledge. For example, if someone asked you when Columbus set sail, you could easily say 1492 and that answer will always be right. Nursing school isn’t like that. It’s all about the application. They give you information, you gain knowledge, and then you apply that to a situation in the safest way possible.
Nursing school was definitely different at first, but I struggled and then I got it. I graduated, and then moved into nursing which I’ve been doing for the last 14 years. I’ve worked in numerous nursing capacities including stroke and heart units, the cardiovascular intensive care unit, critical care. I’ve done a lot over my nursing career and initially started a business in 2018.
Jouviane: This business was before the start of The Dose Calc Academy. What kind of business was it?
Latoya: I was creating t-shirts for nurses. It was actually really cool working on that. And then the pandemic hit in 2020. Being a nurse, knowing it was a new virus, and not knowing exactly how COVID was transmitted, I didn’t feel safe sending physical products — t-shirts, cups, and mugs — that numerous people were going to be touching in order to manufacture, package, and ship them. So unfortunately, I had to back away from that.
Jouviane: The initial stages of the pandemic were certainly rough for a lot of entrepreneurs, but how were you able to shift gears afterwards?
Latoya: During this time, I was actually helping out some nursing students and nurses in Facebook groups. And the same questions kept popping up, and they were always about dosage calculations. They were struggling, they couldn’t pass, or they had failed. And I just had a moment where I was like I can do that. So I did. I created a program. I wrote a book, and then I held Zoom webinars where I was teaching others the concepts from the book. And it just built from there. It was very well received and has helped a lot of nursing students.
Jouviane: Most nurses don’t start their own business. And while you touched on what inspired you to start your own business, where do you think your entrepreneurial mindset came from?
Latoya: I think I’ve always been a creative. Even though I’m a nurse, it’s kind of hard because those worlds are different, but I think creativity has always been in me. I used to write a lot in the past — poems and short stories — and while I wasn’t doing that anymore, my creative outlet became my wardrobe and the outfits I wore. I think the business was another way for me to be creative. To be honest about my t-shirt business, I was just creating things that I thought were cute for me. It started out as a creative outlet, and then it kind of transformed into — with The Dose Calc Academy — really having a purpose.
We want to put nurses out there who have a really good grasp on this. We also want them to be successful because a lot of times, the people who were struggling were BIPOC and older nursing students, and diversity improves patient outcomes. So if this test is keeping people from moving on, graduating, and becoming nurses that we so desperately need in healthcare, we have to do something to change that. This one test should not be the final determination on whether you get to be a nurse or not.
Jouviane: Clearly this exam is challenging for a lot of nurses, but for our readers who aren’t in the medical field, what is dose calc and what does Dose Calc Academy offers its customers?
Latoya: So what dosage calculation is — or nurse math — is the math we do to figure out how much medication we’re going to give a patient. Do they need two pills or five? Should I set this IV at 50 mL per hour or 100? How much of this liquid medication should I draw up in this syringe? Those are the types of calculations that we’re teaching nursing students to do which is crucial. If you’re a patient, you want to make sure you get the right dose. It’s very important that the nursing students know how to do this and feel confident in doing it.
The Dose Calc Academy is everything nursing students need to be successful and get a good grasp of these concepts. It’s also in place to give them practice. That’s where I’ve seen a lot of people failing because they didn’t have enough practice. It’s not one of those things where you can just study one day and get it. This is something you need to do consistently until you have a complete grasp on it.
So our Academy is super fun. It has short, easy-to-understand videos. Our longest video is 20 minutes because we try to keep it short and simple. It cuts the fluff. It cuts the confusion. They can start learning dose calculations in just 20 to 30 minutes a day. The good thing about the Academy is that it can go with you anywhere and anytime. If you have some downtime, you can practice. It’s fully mobile and goes where you go.
Another great thing is that Dose Calc Academy students can practice all they want. A lot of programs for nursing students revolve around the idea that you get two tests. If you need more than two tests or 50 questions, you have to pay for more. Our Academy students don’t have to do that here. They never have to pay for additional questions. If I upload a new quiz, that’s automatically included. And the courses are just fun and colorful. We use a lot of pop culture references to keep you engaged and focused so that you actually want to continue through to the next step.
Jouviane: As you’ve built this business, what would you say has been your favorite part of this process?
Latoya: My favorite part is seeing that lightbulb turn on for the nursing students. A lot of the time they come to me when they’re on their last leg. Most facilities and colleges give you three attempts to pass the test. After the third time, you’re out of the program for that semester. That can mean reapplying the next semester or having to start the process all over again at another college. And that will cost you a lot of money and time. Many students come to me at this point where they have this last chance.
It’s really rewarding to see when that lightbulb comes on and they finally get it. And they’re able to go out, take the test, pass it, and come back to tell me they did it. It builds this confidence because a lot of people have this insecurity about math. And so they gain this confidence that not only takes them through dosage calculation, but it follows them out into other nursing classes and trickles down to their work in the world.
Jouviane: I’m sure it’s very satisfying to see the success of all your students who pass through the Academy. Conversely, what would you say has been the biggest challenge that you’ve faced during this journey and how did you overcome it?
Latoya: My biggest challenge came with creating the content. I am a shy person, but when it comes to something I know, I have no problem. I can do that. I think my biggest challenge as a nurse and within the business is knowing my worth, but not asking to be compensated for my worth. I’ve always negotiated my pay at every position I’ve had, but I never negotiated in a way that really demonstrated my value. I should have been asking for higher salaries. I should’ve known that what I bring provides value, and that is something I want other people and nursing students to know. So that was my biggest challenge then, but now I know.
Jouviane: And that’s such an important lesson, especially for Black and other BIPOC nurses. It seems as if the pendulum is swinging in the way where patients are advocating for themselves and they’re like I want a Black doctor or a Black nurse. I’m hoping that will lend to the notion of nurses seeing and understanding their worth and knowing that not only do we want Black nurses, but we need you.
Latoya: We do need them. And I have patients of color who, when I walk into a room, will tell me that they’re glad to see me. They just want to see one person that looks like them. It’s a scary thing to be a person of color, in a hospital or care facility, with the history of this country.
Jouviane: It is a scary thing, but I’m hoping the healthcare system continues to change for the better. And as this change happens, what is the ultimate goal for The Dose Calc Academy? Where would you like to see it in the next five or 10 years?
Latoya: In the next five years, my goal — it’s a lofty one — is to really change the dynamic of nursing education. I want it to be a more student and results-driven arena. Right now, they do have high standards. The colleges and technical schools have to have a certain percentage of students who pass the NCLEX to maintain their accreditation. But also, there needs to be a way for students to get what they need.
A lot of the time, nursing schools only want to teach dosage calculation one way, and they don’t teach it very well. Nursing students should be able to pass the test the first time. That’s what I want to see, and we’re going to do it. We’re going to change it to where nursing students are going to be able to determine what’s best for them as far as their nursing education goes. We want to maintain the accreditation, but we want nursing students to have a choice, and they don’t have much of that right now.
Jouviane: And to all the current nurses or aspiring nurses who might be reading this article, what advice would you give to them?
Latoya: I would tell them a couple things. First, always be true to yourself and maintain your integrity. At the end of the day, a lot of corporations, companies, managers, and supervisors will ask you to do all sorts of things that go against nursing practice. And so, you have to be able to say, I’m not going to do that. And be willing to walk away if you need to.
The second thing that I’d want to tell them is to make sure that you get financial education. Before you graduate school, learn how to budget. Learn how to save. When you find yourself in a toxic environment, you might not be able to quit and move on because you find yourself with all these financial obligations. Give yourself the financial freedom to leave these situations if they come up.
Jouviane: In a nutshell, what is the final message you’d like to send about The Dose Calc Academy?
Latoya: The Dose Calc Academy is what you need and you need it right now. It has everything you need as a nurse to be successful. It has all the formulas and practice questions with access to me and many other resources including a supportive community. The Dose Calc Academy is your best chance at success.
Jouviane: And lastly, for you, as The Dose Calc Academy grows, where do you see yourself as a nurse and within the business.
Latoya: As the business grows, I’m going to be interested in growing the team. I really want to have a whole host of tutors available so that you can get a session at any day or time. I’d also like to expand the services to cover more concepts that nursing students need throughout the nursing school process. The goal is to continue to build platforms, courses, and resources that are beneficial to nursing students.