Growing up, Joe Greene, a Valencia resident, always wanted to become a registered nurse, and at the age of 58, he became a recipient of a doctorate degree in nursing from Boise State University.
Greene, who attended an all-boys school while growing up, remembers being ridiculed for wanting to become a nurse when he was older because “boys didn’t become nurses,” he said.
“I worked as a nurse’s aid at 16 in Philidelphia and I loved it,” Greene said. “I really wanted to be a registered nurse, but I didn’t do it. Instead, I went to college, dropped out, then went into the military.”
Greene, who now works as a clinical integration specialist at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, said he considered pursuing nursing after four years in the military, but thought the necessary time and schooling wouldn’t be attainable. Instead, Greene became an insurance investigator, which led him to the Santa Clarita Valley where he moved with his family.
It wasn’t until being laid off, and finding work as a security guard at California Institute of the Arts, Greene came across a 1997 article in The Signal about a nursing shortage in the area.
“I sat down with my family and told them that I wasn’t going to get anywhere if I didn’t pursue nursing. I knew that was what I wanted to do and I was at a point where I felt I needed to take that leap,” Greene said.
At that time, Greene enrolled in the nursing program at College of the Canyons and graduated as a registered nurse in 2002. He went on to work in the emergency department at Henry Mayo and said, “I thought that was it, that’s all I was going to do.”
Over a decade later, Greene went back to school after his work director challenged him to receive a higher degree. He enrolled at Western Governors University and received his bachelor’s degree, then his master’s degree, then ultimately decided to attain his doctorate degree.
“Seven years after deciding to get my bachelor’s (degree) I got my doctorate, all while working full-time at Henry Mayo, too,” Greene said.
Now, Greene continues to work in the emergency department at Henry Mayo. However, he’s taken on a clinical integration role to implement mental health treatment for adolescents in the emergency room.
“Over the years, the number of adolescents in a mental health crisis has increased,” Greene said. “There’s very little offered for outpatient treatments. Nurses in the emergency room have so much training in so many different areas, but mental health isn’t one of them.”
Greene helps implement an “intervention method,” which gives adolescents a thought-out plan to refer to during times of a mental health crisis when outside of the emergency room. These plans include exercises that can alleviate anxiety or depressive episodes and are given to the individual patient based on their needs.
Eight nurses in the emergency department have undergone the training led by Greene, with hopes to expand training to all staff at Henry Mayo, and across staff at other hospitals, as well. “Hospitals need to have a program that will help these kids,” Greene added.
Greene looked back on his journey wishing he started at a younger age, but found fulfillment in his ability to serve the SCV community while continuing to pursue his dreams.
“My worst days as a nurse are better than anything I’ve ever done,” said Greene. “I believe everyone has a calling in this life and true happiness comes from being able to do that calling every day. I wish I had done this sooner in life, but all the hard work and persistence paid off.”