NATIONAL NURSES WEEK: Trio of women take long path to nursing careers
SPRUCE PINE – Denise Self, Janet Street and Beth Hughes are nurses at Blue Ridge Regional Hospital, but they also have something else in common, which is they all became nurses later in life than usual.
Self, of Little Switzerland, is the Nurse Manager of Outpatient Services at Blue Ridge Regional Hospital. She has been a nurse for seven years, all at BRRH. She began working as a nurse in 2012 at age 35 after previously working as a pharmacy technician and at Hampshire Hosiery.
“I was always interested in nursing because I liked science and biology,” she said. “I had wanted to be a nurse since middle school and was working toward it when I stopped to raise my children, who are now 19 and 17. I went back to school in 2009 at Mayland. I figured it was now or never, so I did it. It’s just something I have always wanted to do.”
Self also recently earned her master’s degree in nursing leadership.
Registered Nurse Janet Street began nursing school at age 32. She has worked in the field for 16 years and the past six years at BRRH. She previously worked at Carolina Home Care and before becoming a nurse worked at Basset-Walker T-Shirt factory.
Registered Nurse Beth Hughes has been a nurse for five years and has been with Mission for the past four. She was 46 when she started nursing school and received her nursing license the day she turned 50 years old. She has a more diverse employment background of the three nurses, having worked as a substitute teacher, a rock-crusher operator and a certified paraoptometric, among other jobs. She said she became a nurse because she wanted to help people.
“My kids were almost all grown, and it was just the time to do it,” Hughes said. “It gives me the chance to give back to people, and I like that.”
No matter the direction their paths took or when it began, Self, Street and Hughes are proud to be nurses, and none have plans to ever work in any other profession.
“I have no plans to change again,” Hughes said. “I think I want to stick this one out for a while. Getting through nursing school is not easy.”
Working in the oncology department has caused these nurses to develop some rather memorable relationships with patients, although they admit it never becomes easier hearing of someone’s passing.
“It’s the hardest part of this job,” Self said. “We have to know we did everything we could do to help them and realize we will all come to that point in our lives when we will pass away, and we have to do all we can.”
Street said it would be difficult to find better patients than those taking chemotherapy treatment.
“They never complain, and they have every right to,” Street said. “They are so appreciative and are always so positive.”
Hughes said patients receiving chemotherapy realize they are on an “even playing field.”
“It doesn’t matter how much money they have, how popular they are or how much they don’t have,” Hughes said. “When they come in here, they are fighting for their lives, and they just want us to help them. It’s a lot for anyone to go through.”
Street said she received a card from a patient once that told her she was “a bright spot in a dark time.”
“Things like that make it all worth it.”