HAMLET — Going to college is a family affair for the Atkins family. Debby Atkins and her husband, Lee, of Laurel Hill, met at Richmond Community College more than 20 years ago when they were fresh out of high school and starting their educational journeys. Debby is back at RichmondCC on a fresh new journey, but this time she is going to college with her two children, daughter Alaina, 18, and son Sage, 19.
Debby and Alaina completed the Nursing Assistant program in December and have applied to be in the Associate Degree Nursing class this fall semester. Sage, who completed the Emergency Medical Technician certification last fall, is working toward a transferable Associate in Science degree and is also a lab assistant in RichmondCC’s science department. Sage has been accepted to the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, but he’s hoping to get into UNC-Chapel Hill to pursue a career as a medical doctor.
As a close-knit family, Debby’s children don’t mind mom being in college with them. In fact, they encouraged her to join them at RichmondCC. Her husband, who is an electrical engineer for Campbell Soup, encouraged her as well.
“My mom’s always been like my best friend all through high school, so I was really excited and pushing her to come with me to RCC,” Alaina said. “I love her being in class with me. We get to go home and talk about the things we did in theory or with the mannequins and talk through the skills together.”
Because they all took Anatomy I last semester, mother, daughter and son often studied together. This semester, they’re all taking Anatomy II, so the family study time continues.
“I always told my mom she would be a really good nurse,” Alaina said. “She always took such good care of us when we were sick.”
Career Switch: Teacher to Nurse
Debby was a teacher for exceptional children in the public school system, but when her children became junior high students, she decided to home school them. When they started going off to college, she realized it was time to pursue her real dream: being a nurse.
“Teaching worked out well for me when I was raising my kids and I could have the summers off with them,” Debby said. “Now that they’re grown, I feel like I can pursue my career, and what better time to do it than with them while they’re pursuing their careers and their dreams.”
Debby’s parents both died from cancer when she was young, so she has a special interest in caring for the elderly, listening to their stories and appreciating their time-honored wisdom. When she and Alaina were going through clinicals, working at a hospice and nursing home, Debby received confirmation that she was, in fact, pursuing the right profession.
Helping Others: Family Trait
The Atkins family has a definite passion for taking caring of others.
“Even as young as junior high, I felt this need to take care of people. It’s a natural instinct for me,” said Alaina. “I knew I wanted to go into the medical field, and I always felt like nursing was the place for me.”
Alaina’s mother describes her as a nurturer, and how — as a cheerleader for Scotland High School — Alaina would rush to the aid of her teammates if they got hurt doing stunts.
Even though home schooled, Alaina went to high school part time so she could be on the cheer team. She also took dual enrollment classes at RichmondCC while in high school.
Alaina has a love for children, so she would like to go into pediatrics or a neonatal unit when she becomes a registered nurse.
The Deciding Factor: Clinicals
One of the requirements for getting into RichmondCC’s Associate Degree Nursing program is to take the Nursing Assistant class, which often helps students determine if nursing really is the profession for them. For the Atkinses, the class definitely let them know nursing was right for them.
Both Debby and Alaina were eager for the clinical portion of the program to start.
“I knew that clinical would be the part that would let me know if I was meant to be a nurse,” Debby said. “It was so much easier than I thought it would be. You realize how much these people need you and how much they appreciate your help.”
“I don’t mind the ‘dirty work,’ which may weed some out of the program. As long as the resident is comfortable, then I’m good,” Alaina said.
Debby and Alaina agreed the instructors of the Nursing Assistant program prepared them well for the transition from class work to clinical work in the nursing home and hospice facility.
“(Instructor) Ann Hudson is so sweet, kind and compassionate, and she taught us to be all of those things,” Alaina said. “Her empathetic ways passed from her to us, and then we passed it on to the residents.”
Both Debby and Alaina successfully passed the N.C. Certified Nursing Assistant Written and Skills test, so they are certified nursing assistants. Next step: registered nurses.
To learn more about the nursing programs at RichmondCC and how to apply, visit www.richmondcc.edu/admissions or call 910-410-1730. The deadline for applying for the Associate Degree Nursing 2018 class is Jan. 31.