Published 3:48 pm Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The team is back together. After 20plus years of being mother/daughter and best friends, two years of being classmates, study mates and cheering each other on in Southside Virginia Community College's Associate in Applied Science Degree nursing program, their future as a team was in doubt.

However, the team of Wendy and Britni Smith of Meherrin, newly licensed Registered Nurses, will continue as both now have jobs on the same floor of HCA Johnston Willis Hospital in Richmond, Virginia.

Wendy, the mother, secured her job first so the two had been apart during the summer. She works in the Intermediate Care Unit.

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“We missed being together,” said Britni who recently started a job on the same hospital floor in the Medical/Surgical unit.

Reminiscing, Wendy notes she always wanted to be a nurse but was hesitant due to a slight fear of needles and blood even though she knew she had the personality and demeanor for helping people. She also had two children to care for and helped her husband with his construction company so dreams of a nursing career were put on hold for many years. She did find time to attend SVCC and received a degree in Information Support Technology.

After graduation from Kenston Forest School, Britni headed to Virginia Commonwealth University to major in Psychology. During her first year in college, a major traumatic event brought mother and daughter back together on a united mission.

A niece, barely two years old was diagnosed with cancer in the form of Neuroblastoma. The young girl had to be hospitalized for long stays, her parents needed to continue working so family members stepped up to the plate to stay in the hospital with her. The mother/daughter team of Wendy and Britni Smith took shifts sitting with the young patient, playing with her, and caring for her at VCU's Medical College of Virginia Hospital for many months. It was a chance to experience the inner workings of hospitals and envision a nursing career.

From this unfortunate experience, a resolve was created for the Smith team to pursue careers in nursing.

Wendy said, “The devastating diagnosis brought us to the hospital and sparked the interest at a time when we were deciding what to do with the rest of our lives.”

Fortunately, the young patient is now in remission and doing fine. And, two new nurses are now at work helping others. Another event that sealed the deal included the economy and downturn in the construction business.

After the hospital experience and epiphany, Britni withdrew from VCU and she and her mom came 'home' to SVCC. Wendy had already attended the local college and felt as if this was a return home.

She also felt that having her daughter in the nursing program with her, she would more readily put her fears aside and continue her leadership role as the mother.

“Mom always wanted to be a nurse and when I decided to go to nursing school, mom agreed to go with me,” Britni said. She added, “Dad was all for it, mom was always doing things for others so it was her turn.”

At SVCC's John H. Daniel Campus, the team thrived attending nursing school and learning together. Both say there was no real competition for grades, each wished the best for the other but “it was added pressure, we were always happy for the other to do well and scared for each other at the same time,” Wendy said.

They would study and read on their own and then come together to compare notes.

They took the NCLEX-RN at the same time. This is the examination for the licensing of nurses in the United States. NCLEX examinations are developed and owned by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Inc. (NCSBN).

To ensure public protection, each board of nursing requires a candidate for licensure to pass the appropriate NCLEX examination, NCLEX-RN for registered nurses and the NCLEX-PN for vocational/practical nurses. NCLEX examinations are designed to test the knowledge, skills and abilities essential to the safe and effective practice of nursing at the entry-level.

Completing the program at SVCC is just one hurdle for any nurse. Passing these State Board exams is the final hurdle in becoming an RN.

The Mom/Daughter team was not together on the day the results were due. Wendy knew her positive results but was fearful for her daughter.

Then the call came and these were the words. “Mom, I'm an RN.”

Wendy is happy with her new career. She said, “I don't feel like I will ever work another day as this is totally what I love to do. This is my passion and my heart. It does not feel like a job.”

Southside Virginia Community College's Nursing Program is a great place to start. For information, visit the website at or call the college at 1-888-220-SVCC.