As we continue celebrating National Apprenticeship Week, we are proud to highlight some of the program's stellar apprentices like Nursing graduate Kelly Halstead. Since our Apprenticeship program’s inception in 2021, area hospitals have accounted for the majority of apprenticeship positions. Eighty-seven SRTC students and graduates have taken advantage of the program at Archbold Memorial Hospital, Colquitt Regional Medical Center, Memorial Hospital and Manor, Miller County Hospital, and Southwell/Tift Regional Medical Center. We are proud that Kelly is one of the 116 apprentices that we have been able to serve through our Apprenticeship program!
In this Q&A, Kelly reflects back on her decision to go back to college in her 40s, her struggles and successes through Nursing school, and the moment she knew she was exactly where she was meant to be in her career.
Q: What drew you to a career in Nursing?
A: My parents are nurses, so nursing has always been a huge part of my life. I became an EMT/paramedic in my 20s, and it was always my plan to go back to school for nursing, but life kept happening, and before I knew it, I was 40. Then COVID happened, and suddenly, I had tons of free time, so I could finally go back to school.
Q: What led you to choose SRTC’s Nursing program specifically?
SRTC's RN program has an outstanding reputation. When I was deciding on which nursing school to apply to, I asked around, and I consistently got amazing feedback about the caliber of nurses that the SRTC RN program produces.
Q: How did the Nursing program prepare you for your current job?
My teachers, Mrs. Hester, Mrs. Sirmans, and Mrs. Harper brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to the classroom and the clinical sites. The textbooks prepared me for the NCLEX, but my teachers showed me the kind of nurse that I wanted to be. They taught me to be diligent, pay attention to details, and best advocate for my patients.
Q: How did the apprenticeship program benefit you as a student and nurse?
This program helped me immensely by putting me in a position to network in my hospital and land my desired position. It also helped me financially and enabled me to buy uniforms and materials for school.
Q: How did you come by your current job?
I first was hired into Southwell's (Tift Regional) Nurse Extern program in my third semester of the nursing program. From there I had the opportunity to shadow nurses in all areas of the hospital. When I did my observation in Labor and Delivery, I knew that I had found my calling.
Q: What goals do you have for your life and career now?
I am enrolled in school for my BSN and am on track to graduate in early 2025. I also want to earn my RNC-OB certification in the next three years.
Q: What were your greatest successes as a college student?
Graduating! I enrolled when I was 40, so I was very apprehensive about my ability to finish. I am so proud to have a college degree and to be an RN.
Q: What were your greatest challenges as a college student?
Graduating! The RN program is exceptionally rigorous, and the schedule is hefty. You have to be organized and dedicated and have a supportive family, especially if you have children. We began with something like 30 students, and we graduated 13 students. Nursing school is not for the faint of heart.
Q: Who were/are your biggest supporters?
My whole family has been extremely supportive, especially my husband and my kids. When I told my husband I wanted to go back to school, he didn't hesitate; he was like, "Well, let's make it happen," and for three years, he worked to accommodate my schedule so that I could focus on school. My kids were amazing. I had to miss many events during nursing school; they were so understanding and never stopped cheering me on.
Q: How do your family and friends feel about you choosing this college and career path?
I think many people were surprised that I decided to go back to school at all, given my age, but in general, everyone was extremely supportive and happy for me.
Q: How do you feel about your college and career path now that you are working in the field?
I absolutely made the right decision. I cannot imagine doing anything else. I work in Labor and Delivery, and I feel a tremendous sense of honor at having the privilege to care for my patients at such a vulnerable time in their lives. I genuinely love what I do.
Q: What did you enjoy about your time at SRTC?
Going through the nursing program with my cohort was such a cool experience. You have all these people who really don't have that much in common, and who you otherwise would not have crossed paths with. And we're all thrown together into this really intense, rigorous program, and you sort of bond over the struggle.
Q: Do you remember any particular lessons or advice that you found particularly useful or important?
Conduct yourself with confidence but not arrogance. Treat your patients the way you would want your loved ones to be treated. Focus on the task in front of you.
Q: What advice would you give individuals who are considering a career in Nursing?
Be willing to do hard things. You're going to lose sleep. You're going to cry. You'll probably fail a test. You may miss family events. You're going to feel dumb and uncertain. You will question all the life decisions that led you to nursing school. And if you hang with it, somewhere in all that you'll graduate from college and become a nurse.
Q: Do you have any college or career tips to share with students who are struggling to hold it all together as far as life, family, school, work?
Time management and self-discipline are crucial. Live and breathe by the syllabus. Get a calendar and write down all your assignments and test dates. Set reminders on your phone. Don't procrastinate. Find some people you can work with and create study groups, especially after you begin the nursing program.