Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Mother, Daughter Launch Nursing Careers at CVTC

Liz and Charlie Smith of Ellsworth have similar inspirations

Article Photo - Mother, Daughter Launch Nursing Careers at CVTC

Liz Smith poses in CVTC River Fall campus Nursing lab in September. She expects to graduate from the program in May, while her daughter, Charlie, has taken dual credit classes to prepare herself to start the program next year.

During an unforgettable day of her life, Liz Smith of Ellsworth became inspired to be a nurse. That day, her son, now 20 years old, was born. Family responsibilities led her to wait many years to make her dream come true, but it’s happening now.

“When I was in the hospital having my son, I loved the setting and the procedures, and the doctors and nurses were great,” Liz said. “I wanted to be a nurse and take care of babies and help when women had babies.”

Today Liz is in her second year of the Nursing-Associate Degree program at Chippewa Valley Technical College’s River Falls campus. Next year, her 17-year-old daughter, Charlize, who goes by “Charlie,” will enter the program after taking many preliminary classes for dual credit while a student at Ellsworth High School.

“As I got into high school, I knew I wanted to do something in the medical field, and in nursing there are so many paths you can go down,” Charlie said. “I knew for sure that’s what I wanted to do.”

Liz, 45, who grew up in Diamond Bluff and graduated from Prescott High School, didn’t start out wanting to be a nurse.

“I went to school to get my degree in graphic design and have worked as a graphic designer all those years, mostly at Helmer Printing in various divisions,” Liz said. “For 15 of those years, they allowed me to work from home. I have four kids, and I was able to raise them at home.”

Her second son arrived a year after the first, then Charlie, and another boy, now 13.

“We’ve had a lot of health problems in our family,” Liz said. “I spent a lot of time in hospitals and found that great nurses make such a difference. It drove into me even further my desire to be a nurse.”

As the children got older, Liz felt she was in a better position to make a career change. She started taking classes at CVTC in 2016, usually just one or two general education courses a semester. Last year, she was able to start her Nursing classes full-time.

After Liz graduates in May 2021, she will be able to work as an RN, but she doesn’t plan to stop there. “I’m planning on going on to get my bachelor’s and master’s degrees, so I will be in college when Charlie starts next year, but not at CVTC.”

Liz has known for 20 years which area of nursing interests her most: pediatrics, labor and delivery. “Oncology also interests me, and I’m interested in surgery and the operating room as well, but my heart is with the kids.”

Liz has encouraged Charlie’s interest in health care professions, and it works both ways.

“She has been my biggest cheerleader,” Liz said. “She helped me a lot with studying, and the content interests her. Charlie had some health problems when she was younger, so she’s seen a lot of stuff and knows more about it than most students her age.”

“Ever since I can remember, Mom talked about being a nurse,” Charlie said. “I was really young, and I remember her saying she really wanted to work with babies and kids. She always told us that if we want to do anything, to just go for it, and she said she wanted to be a nurse, so she just went for it.”

Charlie has prepared herself well for entering CVTC’s Nursing program next year. She has earned her certified nursing assistant credentials through a dual credit program with CVTC and has completed essential courses such as Medical Terminology.

“I will have to do some prerequisites and stuff, but I don’t think it will take long,” Charlie said.

Once Charlie starts her CVTC Nursing classes, she’ll have an ace in the hole back home. “Because Mom excelled in the Nursing program and she’s very smart, I have someone I can turn to and ask questions.”

It has crossed the minds of mother and daughter that they may end up working together as nurses someday, but Charlie says it’s unlikely to happen.

“We joke around about it, but she has different interests,” Charlie said. “There are a lot of different jobs in nursing. I’m thinking of doing emergency room work. You get something different every day. It would be really cool.”

Perhaps Liz and Charlie will end up working at the same hospital someday in different areas, but even if their paths don’t cross much professionally, they will always be close.

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