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Career in Nursing Born from Child-Birth Experience at Cottage Hospital

Birth of Leslie Roth’s second son prompted veteran teacher to go back to school and become a registered nurse

After the birth of her second son, Leslie Roth made a midcareer leap from teaching to nursing. She now works as an RN in the Birth Center at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. (Tom Bolton / Noozhawk photo) Click to view larger
After the birth of her second son, Leslie Roth made a midcareer leap from teaching to nursing. She now works as an RN in the Birth Center at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. (Tom Bolton / Noozhawk photo)

The birth of her second child brought Leslie Wiggins Roth more than just the usual joys of a growing family.

Beyond a bouncing baby boy, her experience at the Birth Center at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital yielded an epiphany of sorts — a realization that despite more than a decade in the classroom, teaching high school math was not her life’s calling.

The Colorado native drew inspiration from the nurses who helped her bring Kumani Roth into the world.

“The nurses I had made me feel safe, they made me feel strong,” Roth recalled. “And I think it was in those moments where I was just, I don’t want to be a teacher anymore, and I want to be a nurse.”

Roth, who turns 41 in May, said it was a “midlife crisis” that knocked her off the teaching track and onto a path leading to a career in nursing.

Wanting to escape Colorado’s cold after high school, she had earned her undergraduate degree at Florida State University before heading to California.

After stints in Orange County as a long-term substitute, she obtained her elementary and secondary teaching credentials at California State University-Fullerton, then secured a job teaching math and coaching cross country, track and swim team at Dos Pueblos High School in Goleta.

“The real reason I got into teaching is I like to teach,” she said. “I like developing those relationships with students and my colleagues. It wasn’t because I was passionate about math.

“I felt kind of stuck. I felt like I wasn’t necessarily so passionate about math that I could continue on for another 20 or 30 years.”

In her late 30s at the time, Roth was married and had a growing family, adding to the challenge of going back to school and changing careers. (Her oldest son, Indy, is now 8.)

Before embarking on the 2½-year nursing program at CSU Channel Islands, she had to complete prerequisite classes at Santa Barbara City College and other local community colleges.

The birth of her youngest son, Utah, was only weeks away when she started the nursing program at CSUCI.

“I had my third child six weeks into the semester, so that presented its own challenges, obviously,” she recalled.

She graduated in May 2016, and was able to get into the new graduate nursing program at Cottage Health a few months later after passing her licensing exam to be a registered nurse. Her goal all along had been to get into the maternity ward.

“Fortunately, there were openings in the Birth Center,” she said.

Roth lights up as she describes joining, as a colleague, the labor and delivery nurses who had inspired her.

“The cool thing is I get to work with them now, the actual same people,” she said. “It’s really come full circle. You don’t forget that face, that person who’s there to support you when you really need it.

“So it’s really cool to work with them.”

Roth sees a parallel between her time as a coach and the role she plays for women bringing children into the world.

“It was always really meaningful to me to see kids accomplish things they didn’t think they could, because they had support to do it,” she said. “So really, to me, that’s what labor was, and that’s what really drew me to it. It’s so similar to what I loved about coaching.”

Today Roth works night shifts three to four times a week in the Birth Center, beginning at 7 p.m. She tag-teams parenting duties with her husband, Chuckie Roth, a teacher and coach at San Marcos High and SBCC.

“I now get to provide the support that was so crucial to my own experience in helping the women in my community to feel safe and confident during what can be a very vulnerable time,” Roth noted.

“And I get to work closely with those nurses who inspired my career change.”

Roth credits her husband, as well as their colleagues and friends, for giving her the freedom and opportunity to make the career change that today brings her much happiness and satisfaction.

“It’s definitely worth the journey, but I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do any of it without the village,” she said. “We have a really supportive extended family, with the athletes and the families of the kids my husband coaches.

“They really supported us and supported me in this journey.”

To those contemplating a similar midcareer leap, Roth offers the following advice:

“I think if you have the right support, then anything’s possible,” she said. “I’m living my dream. It’s so much better than I could have imagined.”

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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