Nicole Laborde ’08 came to the United States from Haiti in 1985 with nothing – except a belief that anything was possible.
It was a mindset that put her on the path to become a registered nurse at Stony Brook University Hospital — and she didn’t stop there. Seeing a need in the community for home healthcare services and professionals, she started two Long Island-based companies: Ideal Home Care Services and the Ideal School of Allied Health Care.
Through her companies, the alumna is training the next generation of healthcare workers and providing home care services to those in need. Today, the Ideal School of Allied Health Care offers 11 programs and has enrolled over 1,500 students.
Why was it important for you to start Ideal Home Care Services and the Ideal School of Allied Health Care?
When I became an RN, people started contacting me for help for family members who had been discharged from the hospital but still needed aid. I discovered there was a great need for home care services and that I could make a difference in my local community. That’s how Ideal Home Care Services came about.
But with this new company, I had to find workers to provide home care. There’s always been a shortage of healthcare professionals — and COVID has made that shortage worse. That’s how the idea for the Ideal School of Allied Health Care was conceived. We offer home health aide and nursing assistant programs to train individuals to go out in the community and take care of the sick.
What impact have you seen from the Ideal School of Allied Health Care?
We attract students from many different backgrounds, including those who have migrated here, much like I did. They’re very nervous and, for a lot of them, English isn’t their first language. So on the first day of class, I always share my story to show them what is possible. You can see the light shining through their eyes when I tell them my story. It really pushes them to do better. That is where we have the biggest impact — helping those who are trying to find their way.
Tell us about your journey from Stony Brook University to your current role as the founder and CEO of the Ideal School of Allied Health Care and Home Care Services?
When I came to the United States, I was 15. I was hungry and focused. I had a vision and a dream, but nothing to my name. Everything was strange to me, from the food we ate to the language we spoke. So after graduating from high school, I enrolled in a nursing assistant program and worked multiple jobs to put myself through college.
I began my education at Suffolk County Community College before enrolling in Stony Brook University’s School of Nursing to pursue my dream of becoming a registered nurse. I earned my Bachelor’s degree while working as a staff nurse in the respiratory care unit (RCU) at Stony Brook University Hospital.
I was excited, but everything was so scary at first. Up until that point, most of my career had been in the nursing home setting. But, I was promoted to a supervisory role as a clinician in the surgical oncology unit within four years. I had such a great experience there and the supervisory skills I gained really prepared me for my work today. I always recommend Stony Brook to prospective nurses.
Who at Stony Brook inspired you on your journey?
When I first started in the RCU at Stony Brook, there was a clinician who was about my age. I saw her leadership and decision-making skills and was really inspired. So I asked her how she had earned her supervisory role. She shared the requirements with me, and at that moment, I told myself that I would become a clinician within four years — and I did.
How did your experiences as an RN at Stony Brook University Hospital prepare you for your work today?
I was in a supervisory position, so I worked with nurses, patients, doctors and management personnel. Working alongside these individuals and making important decisions on my unit really prepared me for the work I do now. Stony Brook also offers management courses to their nurses, which gave me important skills.
What is one thing people would be most surprised to learn about your work?
People often mistakenly think my work is easy because I don’t get frazzled. That’s one of the skills I gained from working as a nurse. When you hear a code blue, you can’t panic; you have to be able to focus on saving someone’s life. Working in a surgical oncology unit taught me to stay calm and come up with fast solutions.
What are you most proud of in your career thus far?
Having the opportunity to give back to those around me. I’m especially proud of the impact my story has had on those who are following a similar path. I’ve had many of my students tell me that graduating from the Ideal School of Allied Health Care has helped them earn enough to put food on their table and make a difference in their children’s lives, which is really significant. But it also means a lot to see the difference in the lives of their patients. It brings me great joy when I have a senior patient tell me that I’ve sent them an angel. It makes my day. It really does.
You returned to Haiti in 2012 to assist in disaster relief after a major earthquake. Can you tell us more about that experience?
It was heartbreaking. This was my land. Even though I’ve been in the United States for years, I have ties to Haiti. My brother still lives there with his wife and kids. So, seeing the devastation, I felt compelled to help and give back, and my experience as an RN allowed for that. I was there for six days. It was difficult, but I was glad that I was in a position to help. I worked with doctors and provided wound care. It meant a lot to me to be able to do that for my country.
What advice would you give to students following in your footsteps?
I know it’s tough for a lot of people right now with COVID. And some have even lost their parents. It’s easy to feel discouraged, but I want young people today to know that they have a purpose in life. There may be challenges, but they can propel you to the next level. Don’t be afraid to go for a career in nursing, because it’s so rewarding.
So, what’s next for you?
I want to write a book to share where I came from and where I am today. I want people to know that nothing is impossible — if you put your mind to it and persist, it can happen.
— Kristen Brennan