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Perspective | Adult learner returns to Piedmont Community College to reach longtime nursing goal

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Despite originally feeling like she was moving backwards by pursuing an associate degree after already earning a bachelor’s degree, Kristina Williams realized her love for nursing was actually moving her forward.

It all made sense as she walked across the stage as part of the inaugural evening/weekend nursing cohort on Piedmont Community College’s (PCC) Caswell County Campus. 

Williams moved from Florida to North Carolina during her sophomore year of high school. Her love for medicine led her to become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) in her junior year of high school. 

She was recruited by North Carolina Central University (NCCU) to play softball where she earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education and had planned to become a physical therapist. Even with this accomplishment, her desire to become a nurse remained.

Williams, 34, has worked as a CNA with Duke University Hospital in Durham since 2015. She also works per diem with LabCorp doing biometric screenings for various companies. 

“I knew I wanted to become a nurse, and I knew I had the capability of being a great nurse,” Williams said.

Williams learned about PCC’s Associate Degree Nursing (ADN) program a week before the deadline. In January 2022, she started driving from Durham to Yanceyville for classes that would help her get closer to her goal of becoming a nurse. 

From her first conversation with PCC Health and Wellness Dean Alisa Montgomery, Williams knew she had made the right decision by choosing PCC. Even before becoming a student, she noted the family-oriented atmosphere and expressed that she wished she had been introduced to PCC sooner. 

“It’s been a supportive environment,” Williams said. “I never felt like I wasn’t wanted as a student. That was deeply appreciated, especially being an adult learner.”

Despite attending a 4-year university straight out of high school, Williams admits that it was challenging coming back to school and knowing what step to take next. At NCCU, her coaches managed her schedule, which was something she had to learn to do for herself at PCC. 

Like other adults coming back to college, Williams also struggled at times with balancing work, school, and finances. Even with these challenges, Williams successfully managed to balance a full-time job working not only 12-hour shifts but working night shift and attending nursing classes. 

Darrick Woods, director of nursing programs at PCC, was one of Williams’ biggest supporters during her journey through the nursing program. She said that he was understanding and worked with her as she dealt with several deaths in her family during her time in the program. 

“Kristina Williams is a student who exemplifies perseverance and resilience,” Woods said. “Despite experiencing several personal tragedies as a student nurse, Kristina quickly solidified herself as a leader and was elected as a class representative. She continues to give back to the nursing program as she recently secured some donated supplies for the department and has come to speak with and encourage the new class of nursing students.”

Nearly two years later on Dec. 11, 2023, Williams’ hard work paid off. Her success was celebrated during the pinning ceremony for PCC’s Caswell County Campus inaugural evening/weekend nursing cohort. Several weeks later, the inaugural class celebrated a 100% pass rate on the NCLEX-RN (National Council Licensure Examination) exam. To top off this accomplishment, she transitioned into a registered nurse (RN) position with Duke University Hospital starting in February 2024. 

PCC’s Associate Degree Nursing curriculum provides individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary to provide nursing care to clients in a variety of settings. The program was expanded in spring 2022 to include instruction on the Caswell County Campus with an evening/weekend cohort. This expansion also enabled multiple entry points as the Caswell County Campus cohort begins yearly in the spring, and the Person County Campus cohort begins yearly in the fall.

Williams has already started looking into master’s degree programs for nursing and would one day like to teach future nurses. For now, she looks forward to a bit of much deserved free time as she plans to attend music festivals in 2024. 

“Follow your dreams,” Williams said. “Don’t get discouraged, don’t give up, you can do it.” 

Felicia Holt

Felicia Holt is the communications specialist for Piedmont Community College (PCC). She was previously the executive assistant to the president at PCC. Holt is also a news contributor for the website NewReleaseToday.