Debra Hazlett sat with her husband, Thomas, in a hospital room, as he recovered from a kidney obstruction.
“It was a difficult time because it was the season of the swine flu scare, so my children were not allowed in the hospital,” Hazlett said.
During the early hours of Christmas, while walking the hushed halls of the hospital, Hazlett felt her “ah-ha” moment. “I saw people talking and working and providing care, and something clicked,” she said. “I felt like I was home and that nursing was to be my life’s work.”
Hazlett’s husband recovered, and the holidays turned into a new year with Hazlett beginning her educational journey at Tidewater Community College the following spring in 2010. On Friday, she will graduate with an Associate of Applied Science in Nursing. Having already passed her boards, she has begun working in the medicine/telemetry unit at Sentara Leigh Hospital.
TCC’s program came highly recommended. “My personal nurse practitioner recommended TCC’s nursing program; she said that TCC nurses are well prepared when they enter the workforce,” she said.
Hazlett embraced her studies and leadership positions. She served as vice president of the Student Nurses Association (SNA) and worked to grow the membership from three to more than 100. She also served as a member of the Student Liaison and the Accreditation committees. “I love building things, and my time at TCC enabled me to help build a solid SNA.”
Despite age differences with fellow classmates, Hazlett made lifelong friends. “The students in my cohort became like family. We studied together and supported each other,” she said.
Five weeks into the program, Hazlett began clinical rotations in area hospitals. “We spent countless hours working under the supervision of other nurses right from the start,” she said. “Every clinical confirmed that I love this work. I enjoy connecting with patients and providing the care that puts them on the road to recovery.”
The mother of three teens, Hazlett admitted balancing the academic load with family responsibilities was challenging. “I’m your typical soccer, cheer mom, so I know what it’s like to run, run, run. But I also know that no matter your age, it’s not too late to follow your dreams.”
TCC became a family affair, with Thomas studying computer aided drafting and design and daughter Kayla entering the nursing program next summer.