Meet Ascension St. Joseph’s Hospital Registered Nurse Twyla James

June 13, 2019

By Twyla James

Twyla with her daughter.

My name is Twyla James, MSN, RN, CNS and I have been working at Ascension St. Joseph’s Hospital for 32 years. My career allows me to provide for my family, while also giving back and treating people who may not return to the comfort of their own home.

Attending Alverno College of Nursing program was an amazing opportunity for me to further my education and career while simultaneously working a full-time job. I was overjoyed when I heard that Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s and Alverno College’s JoAnn McGrath School of Nursing were exploring alliance opportunities. Due to this alliance my hope is that non-traditional students like myself will consider returning to further their education.

Once finalized, this partnership would provide a north side presence for Alverno’s current south-side campus, opening the door for more flexible options for students to attend class. With the north side presence, I would love to see a more diverse graduating class and workforce. This is a great opportunity for traditional and non-traditional students who are committed to providing compassionate, personalized care to our community.

I am the youngest of three children born to Phil Elderson and Edna Corean Banks. My father was born on April 19, 1918 in the Mississippi Delta region, where his parents were farmers. At that time, he and his six brothers helped to farm the land while attending school. He completed eighth grade, which at the time was the highest level of schooling in that area for Blacks. As an adult, my father enlisted in the Army and served in World War II.

After completing his service for this country, he wanted to move to the North where he felt educational opportunities would be better for his future children. He settled in Milwaukee where he met and married my mother. She was born in Mississippi and her parents moved to Milwaukee when she was 13 years old.

Twyla’s parents Phil Elderson and Edna Corean Banks.

After marrying my father and having three children, my mother returned to college earning an Associate Degree in Social Services and Mortuary Science. She eventually went into the funeral business and opened Banks Funeral Home. Although my father did not have the opportunity to further his education, both of my parents were big proponents for getting an education and it was an expectation to attend college after graduating high school. My older siblings also graduated from college.

I attended the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, but after my freshman year I returned to Milwaukee and enrolled in the nursing program at Milwaukee Area Technical College. In 1985, I was awarded an Associate Degree in Nursing. I began working at Wheaton Franciscan Health Care in 1987, married in 1989 and with the assistance of my then-husband, tuition reimbursement from Wheaton Franciscan Health Care, I enrolled in Marian College’s BSN completion program. In 1991 I was awarded a Baccalaureate degree in Nursing.

In 2006, my father passed away and my mother began living with my family. My mother was diagnosed with colorectal cancer and received treatment in 2012. Fast forward to 2014, I’m now 52 years old, divorced with one adult daughter attending Alverno and I decide to return to graduate school. I enrolled in Alverno College Master of Nursing program in the Clinical Nurse Specialist track. I chose Alverno because they offered a weekend program for their non-traditional students.

In spring 2015, my mother’s cancer returned. During this difficult time, I continued to work full-time and managed to graduate school while I assisted in the care of our mother. Unfortunately, our matriarch passed on Nov. 3, 2015. By the grace of God and the support of my family I was successful in completing my Master’s in Nursing, graduating as a Clinical Nurse Specialist on Dec. 15, 2018.

Death, discrimination, divorce, debt, cancer and everyday life would make anyone want to give up on life completely. I’ve learned many lessons throughout my life and one that speaks true to my story in my latter years is that it’s never too late to attend college. B.B. King once said, “Education is the one thing that no one can take from you.”