The Night Shift
Tanya delicately placed a new bedpan under the middle-aged woman in the acute care unit. The nurse watched her swift and careful movements from across the room. “You should’ve called me in here sooner,” she said to the nurse with a gentle smile. “Just because it’s 4 a.m. doesn’t mean you should do my work.”
Tanya spends three twelve-hour nights each weekend as a Nursing Assistant at Providence St. Peter Hospital. It’s hard work, but she gets to care for people who really need her. She’s happy to do it. And it’s a great work schedule to balance her full-time studies in pre-nursing and time with family and her 10-year-old step son.
She wrapped up her shift that cool and dark grey Monday morning and stepped out of the hospital toward her car. Water droplets covered the door handle so she dried her hands on her scrubs and settled into her car. She turned the key, grabbed her phone from her jacket pocket, and tapped the play button. It was her most recent anatomy and physiology lecture. It played at full volume from the cup holder so she could hear it while driving. She had to keep studying for the exam that was just 36 hours away. But first, a nap before heading to campus to start the week.
Monday to Friday
“I’m an empath. A natural nurturer,” Tanya said when she met us the next day. She’d been that way her whole life, she explained, but didn’t realize it would drive her career path until she had a chance to care for her grandmother after a cancer diagnosis. “Nursing is that important combination of empathy, skills, and passion,” she said. “That’s just me.”
In her second go at college since graduating from Yelm High School in 2008, Tanya started classes online in January 2018. Fast forward almost two years, Tanya is completing prerequisites and preparing to apply for the competitive Nursing program. Getting accepted means earning high marks in every class—including psychology, human anatomy and physiology, microbiology, and organic and biochemistry—before applying for one of 30 spots each year.
“It’s been a challenge and an opportunity,” Tanya said. “Faculty and educational planners have been a huge part of helping me balance school and my work schedule, and I’ve had a lot of financial help through the college, as well.”
Shortly after enrolling at SPSCC, Tanya was identified as a candidate for IGNITE, a program that creates equitable opportunities for students to succeed at SPSCC. She applied and was accepted into the program in fall 2018, beginning yet another way she would help others through empathy.
“My pronouns are she/her/hers and I identify as multiracial,” Tanya told us. IGNITE is designed to help first generation, low income, students of color, and students with disabilities—and Tanya fits into a few of those groups.
Run by staff in the A. Barbara Clarkson Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Center (DEIC), “IGNITE helps address the challenges that these students face,” said center director Parfait Bassalé. “Not only does IGNITE create a community of peers and friends, it also provides much needed financial and social-emotional resources that directly impact a student's ability to meet their goals.”
After just one quarter in the program, Parfait recognized that the supports surrounding Tanya—especially a peer mentor assigned to help her—were making a powerful and positive impact on her. And she was paying it forward. She immediately connected with other students in the DEIC and motivated others with her positive attitude and willingness to listen and help.
“She is such a caring and nurturing person,” Parfait told us, “so it was only natural to offer her a position as an IGNITE peer mentor.” Tanya accepted the offer and took on her own mentees in January 2019, just one year after she enrolled.
As the program has grown to 80 students, Tanya supports 19 students who are navigating their college experience at SPSCC. “Really, I just check in with everybody,” she said, “because what you get from a peer mentor is something you don’t realize you need until you have it.”
Her Self-Care Routine
We recognized that Tanya does so much for others, so we had to ask what she does for herself. “First of all, I’m a master napper,” she laughed. “Like 10 minute naps, anytime.” It’s a skill that has helped her refresh after long nights at the hospital and in between classes. While she admits she could do more for herself, Tanya also finds time to see a counselor, meditate, take walks, and is part of starting the new women’s soccer club on campus. “I also listen to true crime podcasts. You should check out Hide and Seek, it's amazing!"
Just like the rest of us, Tanya made it through her week. She got a 98 on her exam. She made it to all of her appointments and shifts in the DEIC, all while her phone vibrated a steady rhythm of texts and emails. And she responded to them all.
It's hard work, but Tanya gets to care for people who really need her. She's happy to do it. And it's the perfect college experience for a full-time nursing assistant with a family and 10-year-old step son.