As a private duty nurse, Shannon Marlar has a very special role providing healthcare to those who can’t leave their home.
Marlar, a single mother of two from Sparkman, Arkansas, serves many important roles – a healthcare provider, a caregiver, and a shoulder to cry on for family members.
Marlar has overcome incredible odds to fulfill her dream of earning her bachelor’s degree in nursing. She will graduate May 14 at UA Little Rock’s Jack Stephens Center. She is going to use her expertise to open up a new business that will provide at-home medical care for people who are homebound.
“There are a lot of people who can’t get out of their homes to go get the healthcare they need,” Marlar said. “They would see a doctor if they came to their home. I wanted people to get the specialty care they need. Telehealth medicine is good, but one of the main problems is that you are not face to face with the patient, and you can’t double check their symptoms in person.”
Marlar encountered many obstacles on her road to becoming a nurse. She became pregnant with her first child while she was a senior in high school but was determined to continue her education to be a good role model for her son. While navigating work, school, and motherhood, Marlar said she had to leave college for a whole year while she left an abusive marriage.
Marlar persisted in her education and eventually earned an associate degree in professional studies and became a certified nursing assistant through Southern Arkansas University Tech. She continued her education by earning an associate degree in nursing in 2016 while working as a licensed practical nurse.
Tragedy struck Marlar’s life once more when she was involved in a serious car accident in February 2017, just one month before she was scheduled to take her exam to become a registered nurse and six months before she was supposed to start the online RN to BSN program at UA Little Rock.
“I spent 11 days in UAMS,” Marlar said. “I can’t bend my knee. I can’t run anymore. I can’t work in a hospital. I can’t work 12-hour shifts, all because a woman dropped her cell phone on the floorboard of her truck and bent down to pick it up. She hit me head on.”
The doctors told Marlar that it would be at least one year before she would be able to walk again and possibly return to work. With two young children to support, Marlar beat all the doctors’ expectations by getting back to work in just eight months.
Still determined to complete her education, Marlar made it to UA Little Rock in 2021 with the goals of finishing her bachelor’s degree and starting her own business.
“Lindsey Baertlein has been my favorite, the most helpful and outgoing professor,” Marlar said. “She was easy going and made things fun to do and to learn. Lindsey has given me the most advice for my goals and has been the most helpful.”
At UA Little Rock, Marlar and fellow nursing students Rachal Pendergrass, Savannah Thackeray, and Latasha Bell created a presentation on Doctor on Demand, a telehealth app. Nursing professors were so impressed with the student project that they are turning it into a continuing education course for the School of Nursing’s Professional Development Center.
Now that she is about to graduate, Marlar is celebrating her long road to completing her bachelor’s degree and has high hopes for the future.
“I feel fabulous, to put it lightly,” Marlar said. “I made graduation invitations and everything. I’m proud. It’s taken me a long time to get back on my feet. I planned to go to UA Little Rock with my friend Mary several years ago. She’s just passed her nurse practitioner degree. I would be graduating with my nurse practitioner degree if the car accident hadn’t happened. God has more plans for me. I know I’ve helped people along the way because of my disability.”
This summer, Marlar will attend Arkansas State University so she can become a nurse practitioner. She also hopes to begin her healthcare business in the fall. She plans to offer concierge medical services to start. Eventually, she hopes to offer private duty nursing, respiratory supplies, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and mental health therapy.
“I’m naming the business Ryan’s Hope for Special Needs,” Marlar said. “Ryan was a patient of mine who couldn’t get the care that she needed. She was quadriplegic. She died two months after I had my car accident. There are so many people like Ryan who can’t get the care at home that they need, and I want to change that.”