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Nursing student takes unique path to Northeast

May 9, 2018 GMT

Making the switch from construction to nursing might seem like a dramatic change.

But to Chris Wood, it felt right.

Originally from Lincoln, Wood saw entering the construction field straight out of high school as a natural fit, considering that his father was a construction superintendent.

He grew up learning everything about it, so it felt “easy.”

But he had reached a point of frustration.

“It’s not that I disliked it, but I just disliked where the field of construction was going — cheaper, faster, no real pride,” Wood said.

That realization would eventually lead Wood to Northeast Community College and its nursing program, from which he will be graduating with his associate’s degree on Saturday.

At first, though, Wood enrolled in the radiologic technology program at Southeast Community College in Lincoln. That happened to be around the time he met the woman who would become his wife.

She was accepted into the physician’s assistant program at Union College, meaning Wood would go back to work full time while she finished her degree. When she graduated, the couple — who have two children — relocated to Norfolk and Wood revisited finishing school.

Northeast has its accreditation through Southeast for its radiologic technology program, but Wood said he realized the demand for that degree had dwindled.

“So I talked to Michelle Gill, who is the dean (of health and wellness), and kind of asked her, ‘I have these credits, what else can I do without taking a giant step backwards and starting over?’ ” he said. “She pointed me in the direction of nursing.”

Another talk with Karen Weidner, director of nursing programs, cued him into all the options nursing provided.

After enrolling, starting clinicals — which students do in their first semester of Northeast’s nursing program — solidified to Wood that he had made the right choice. He also started working as a nurse’s aide and then as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) at the Norfolk Veterans Home.

Wood, who has served as the president of the Student Nurses Association at Northeast, has a job lined up as a nurse in the surgery department at Faith Regional Health Services once he passes boards.

“I really, really enjoy (surgery),” Wood said. “I guess when I started, it’s what I thought I would like the most. I think coming from construction, you have this kind of fix-it mentality, and that probably relates the closest.”

Wood said he is appreciative of the education he’s received at Northeast. He described the atmosphere as tight-knit and appreciated the communication at the college.

“I haven’t had an instructor who I didn’t think was great or very concerned about the student succeeding,” Wood said. “If there was ever anything I was struggling with, they’d always help me. ... Every teacher knows every student on a first-name basis. It feels more like family than anything.”

Plus, he’s had plenty of hands-on experience in the college’s skills lab, which is complete with a range of mannequins for students to practice on. He also appreciates the balance of instructors — some of whom will coddle if needed and others who will give you a straight answer.

“I’m just really thankful for the whole opportunity here,” Wood said. “I feel like it was just a different experience than I’ve had anywhere else.”