Childhood Love of Health Care Leads to Nursing Career

Childhood Love of Health Care Leads to Nursing Career

Elton Veals Jr., MSN, RN, OCN, plans to hold dual certification as an adult gerontology nurse practitioner in primary care and acute care. 


Elton Veals Jr. was in fourth grade when his teacher suggested he read Dr. Ben Carson’s biography, “Gifted Hands,” for a class project on famous heroes. Veals read the book in two days and fell in love with health care.  

At age 12, he volunteered at a local hospital to learn about the different roles in health care. In high school, he got a part-time job as a medical records clerk in a local oncology practice, where he met people who are still mentoring him to this day.  

Now a Doctor of Nursing Practice student at Duke University’s School of Nursing, Veals is still pursuing his long-time love of the health care field. Originally, he wanted to be a pediatric neurosurgeon but fell in love with caring for oncologic and hematologic patients.  

“Sometimes we choose a profession, but also, sometimes a profession chooses us,” said Veals, MSN, RN, OCN. “I feel like oncology chose me because, 15 years later, I'm still doing it, and I love it just the same.” 

After being exposed to various levels of providers, including registered nurses, advanced practice registered nurses and medical doctors, Veals quickly saw how RNs were the frontline of patient care. They provided physical, technical, emotional and spiritual care and treated the whole patient.  

“Then I realized that APRNs were nurses who could provide care like physicians, and I just knew that was for me,” he said. “Could I be a nurse and a doctor at the same time? Cool! Sign me up.” 

Veals chose to attend Duke’s School of Nursing “simply because it was the best program in the country,” he said. “I want to be the best. Therefore, I have to train with the best. It's a well-known research facility doing great things in the realm of oncology. It also has one of the long-standing oncology tracks for NPs.” 

Veals is continuing his education at Duke while beginning his academic appointment at the University of Washington and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in the Division of Oncology as a nurse practitioner in bone marrow transplant/immunotherapy. In the future, he plans to hold dual certification as an adult gerontology nurse practitioner in primary care and acute care.  

He also hopes to continue practicing in heme malignancy (leukemia/lymphoma) and transplant medicine while developing programs to assist with cancer prevention and education for marginalized populations. He might teach or do research in the academic realm in the future. He credits his education at Duke for helping him achieve his health care dreams.  

“It has been one of the greatest experiences of my academic life – to know that you are receiving not only a great education, but that you are entering into a life-long network that will be a resource for you for the entirety of your career,” he said. “It is the most tight-knit brother/sisterhood of all academic institutions. I am challenged every semester to be a better Elton, in all aspects – academically, clinically and relationally.”  

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