By JOYANNA LOVE
Banner Senior Staff Writer
Nursing is a passion for Melissa Mitchell.
Although she has worked in the health care industry for years, completing the courses necessary to be a registered nurse was a challenge.
Fulfilling her dream was made possible when Cleveland State Community College began offering a nursing program at night.
“I’m very proud to be a registered nurse now,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell is the clinical manager and a registered nurse at Surgical Associates of Cleveland. She said her position as a clinical manager is similar to a nurse manager at a hospital. She orders all the medical supplies and works with the medical assistants.
Her first job in health care was at Bradley Memorial as a unit clerk in 1992.
“I always knew I had a passion to be a nurse, and a unit clerk was a job I got right out of high school,” Mitchell said.
The job gave her the opportunity to work with nurses and learn medical data entry skills.
At the time, she was working part-time and attending Cleveland State part-time taking the prerequisite classes needed for acceptance into the nursing program.
She came to Surgical Associates as medical transcriptionist in 1995.
“Then I was getting a feel for it, and I knew I wanted to do more than just this,” Mitchell said.
This was also the year she got married.
In 1997, she became a certified medical assistant.
Mitchell said she was still taking courses at Cleveland State when she could make it work with her schedule. She said she knew she did not want to quit her full-time job to finish her degree.
“When Cleveland State’s night program came along for the RN I was just like, ‘Thank you.’ I had waited so long. The night program gave me the opportunity to still work my full-time job and go to school,” Mitchell said.
Even though she attended the night program as a part-time student, it was still a major time commitment.
The classes met on Monday nights for four hours. Mitchell completed her clinicals on Thursdays at various area hospitals. Completing the clinicals portion of the program often required Mitchell to be at the hospital for seven or eight hours after already working a full shift at her job.
“[Work] very late hours, then get up and do it again,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell fulfilled the pediatric clinical requirement by working at T.C. Thompson Children’s Hospital emergency room.
“I never thought I wanted to be a pediatric nurse until I worked there in the emergency room. I fell in love with it,” Mitchell said.
Emergency medicine and surgery are the fields she enjoys the most.
Mitchell said she worked homework around her children’s extracurricular activities and her career by using every spare moment to study.
“I always had a book with me,” Mitchell said.
The nursing program took nearly two years to complete.
“It wasn’t as much for me about the money as I just wanted to be a real nurse,” Mitchell said. “It meant so much to me. I love taking care of people. My patients are very important to me.”
Mitchell’s coworker Octavia Ware is part of the second group of night nursing program students at Cleveland State.
Mitchell said being a part of the first night program cohort meant that there were still some things being worked out to make the program better and run more smoothly for the next class.
“Being the first [night] class at Cleveland State, it means a lot to me,” Mitchell said.
She said “the instructors were amazing” in teaching.
The program taught needed skills such as checking pulses and heartbeats, working with IVs and doing patient assessments.
The importance of educating patients was an emphasis of the nursing program. Mitchell said patients will often ask the nurse for explanation of what the doctor said, and it is important for them to be able to explain and offer reassurance.
Mitchell said receiving her RN shows that even those with family responsibilities can achieve their education goals.
In the future, Mitchell plans to complete her bachelor’s degree.