“I was always wanting to do everything,” says Rappahannock Community College Associate Degree Nursing (ADN) student Christine Riddett, “but I finally had to narrow my focus, and I picked the best: nursing.”
In addition to graduating from Gloucester High School a year early — with a 4.2 grade-point average — Riddett participated in the National Honor Society and Spanish Club there, and played volleyball and tennis. She also won the title of Gloucester’s Daffodil Queen in 2013, and still works on the Daffodil Festival committee.
“I wish I could stay awake 24 hours a day, so I could pursue everything that I want to accomplish,” she says.
Riddett originally thought of becoming a dental assistant, and in pursuit of this plan she arranged to “shadow” a dentist. “I worked on a veteran who had part of his jaw missing,” she says. “When he started to talk about the great care he received when he was wounded in Vietnam, it made me think about becoming a nurse.”
Another factor in her decision was a 17-day illness suffered by her mother. “I didn’t understand then what was going on. Now, I do understand. I came to realize that I could probably help more people with nursing than with dental work.”
“My dad was always talking about getting an education,” Riddett notes. As the first person in her family to attend college, she could have chosen a four-year school; but, as she says, “RCC is 15 minutes from my house — I don’t have to go so far away and live with strangers. I won’t get a bachelor’s degree from RCC, but I will be a nurse by the time I’m 21.”
After her RCC graduation, which she expects in May 2016, she plans to begin working as a nurse while pursuing the Bachelor of Science degree in nursing through Old Dominion University. This will give her valuable in-depth nursing experience and evidence-based practice, plus more of nursing’s background theory — “the theory of why we do things and how we can make things better,” she calls it. She will then consider going on to Virginia Commonwealth University to qualify as a nurse practitioner.
“I’ve come to love family practice,” she says, and adds, “But there are so many options!”
Riddett became a medical assistant through the program at GHS, obtaining her state certification in May 2013 and landing her first job within seven days. Currently she holds that position at West Point Family Practice.
“I love the people that I work with there,” she says. “They are my ‘family.’ And I get to know the patients that I work with. The West Point practice allows me to get exposure to a variety of skills.”
She also worked weekends at Riverside Urgent Care at Hayes until very recently, and only stopped “because I really need to concentrate on nursing school. The ADN degree is my primary focus.”
Riddett’s RCC experience began in the spring of 2012 with an open house event that provided her with a campus tour. At this point she still had her junior and senior years of high school to complete, but the RCC classes she started taking that summer speeded up the process considerably.
“I kept pushing to graduate early,” she says — and she did so in August 2013. “I could have applied to the ADN program then” — but her advisors suggested first taking some of the co-requisite courses (those that are not strictly classified under the subject of nursing, but are required for the ADN degree, such as anatomy and physiology, nutrition and development, sociology, and medical ethics). “I worked full time and took all my classes online, except anatomy. That was a very difficult class, the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but you use it a great deal, later on in nursing school.” She adds, “Scholarships and financial aid have helped to pay for my education, but even if those had not come through, I would have found a way.”
“I was never a ‘calendar person’ until I started nursing school,” says Riddett. But now, “you have to have one, you have to be organized. It’s the effort that you have to put in on your own that takes so much time” — necessary, she realizes, in order for her college work to reflect what she is capable of doing.
However, her fellow ADN students have made it easier for her. “We form study groups together, and take care of each other. It’s educationally comforting.”
“I feel that the ADN program has majorly bonded this semester,” she continues. “I would say that now we have become kind of our own little family. We are the only ones who understand the stress, dedication, and time that nursing school requires. I’m glad we’ve all become such good friends … we really have an awesome group.”
Riddett serves as class president for the ADN program on the Glenns Campus, and together she and her classmates have been organizing various fundraising activities to help pay for their pinning ceremony, as well as for additional lab supplies.
“After I pass my NCLEX [the state certification test for obtaining a registered nursing license], I want to go to Disney World,” Riddett says. “We used to go there all the time when I was a kid. This will be my reward!”
She hopes then to find employment in Williamsburg, if possible, which will keep her near to her family
“There are good people here,” says Riddett, summarizing her RCC experience. “They are a resource for assistance — they are always willing to help.”
She stresses that college-bound students should not automatically settle on a four-year school without at least considering whether RCC might be a better fit: “You don’t know RCC unless you come to RCC.”