Brittany Ward does not have the typical college story to share. She started and stopped a few times until she finally figured it all out. Perhaps that’s why she is the perfect person to speak at Rappahannock Community College’s 46th Commencement ceremony on May 11.
Ward will confess that, in the beginning, she had never heard of RCC. She grew up in York County and graduated from York High School and claims to have never been over the Coleman Bridge. But one day, while working at the Canon plant in Newport News, she heard from a friend that a community college in Gloucester had a remarkable nursing program. She checked it out, and the friend was right.
“I fell in love with the school and fell in love with the area, and I decided I wanted to move over here,” she says.
Ward had always done well in school and admitted that, at first, she was not prepared for the rigors of a nursing program.
“I was in the ADN (associates degree in nursing) program back in 2013. I failed my second semester; had to wait a year,” she says. “I came back and finished that semester and did the summer. Came into the fall and failed that one too.”
“Growing up I had always done very well in school,” says Ward. “This was the first time that I ever really failed at anything, and it made me step back and think about things.
“I knew then that this is something that was going to be hard for me,” says Ward. “But I’ve always been told that when you start something, you finish it.”
She returned to RCC and started the PN (practical nurse) program in the Summer of 2016. She graduated in 2017 and then completed the LPN to ADN bridge program, from which she will graduate this Friday.
The work was hard, she will admit. But Ward can’t think of another job that she’d want to do or another way to give back.
“Nursing is so rewarding,” says Ward. “You meet all these different people, and you learn all these different stories, and you make these connections with people, that you wouldn’t be able to do elsewhere.
“You take care of people at their darkest time, and that is an honor. That’s something very special. That’s what I feel my purpose is.”
While at RCC, she was inspired by the work of her friends in the program and from the faculty who guided them along the way.
“This is the type of environment where you not only grow as a class, but you grow holistically and with your teachers,” says Ward. “These people dedicate themselves to your success.”
“They don’t have enough time for their own family, but they still try to put you first because they care about you. I don’t think you’ll get that anywhere else.”
As she has been at RCC for some time, she too has become a role model for the younger students coming into the program. The Practical Nursing faculty chose her to speak in 2017 last year to her fellow students at the end of year pinning ceremony. There is one story in particular that stands out to her when she was able to guide a new nursing student.
“There is a student in the first year who wanted to be a nurse but was worried about failing and hearing me talk about RCC’s nursing program,” says Ward. “It inspired him to apply, and he got in and found his calling and has loved every minute of it.
“We tend to forget that people are watching and when we share our stories with others, it just might be enough to change someone’s life and making a positive difference in someone’s life is what nursing is all about.”
Ward works currently at Henrico County Jail as an LPN-PRN in an “as-needed” capacity. But she is excited to share that she will soon start with Sentara in Williamsburg on the Orthopedic Nursing Unit.
“A lot of people at school, they don’t use their teachers, and these are your go-to people,” she says. “If you feel that you’re having problems, you need to come to them first.”
“RCC provides you with the tools that you’ll need — that and your mindset is what is going to take you places.”