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It’s been a ‘full circle experience’ for RCC nursing professor Susan Perry

Rappahannock Community College’s Susan Perry, part of the faculty for the college’s nursing program, had an interesting start for her teaching career. Hired by the school in 2009, Perry’s career course took some turns she didn’t expect in the beginning.

A high school biology, earth science and chemistry teacher, she chose to make a life change in 2001 with RCC and her life has been forever altered.

A native of West Point and a graduate of Mary Washington College, Perry wasn’t satisfied with being a high school teacher. Her daughter, Elizabeth, finished at Old Dominion University with a degree in biology and then found she too was not satisfied with her initial career course.

“Elizabeth came to me with information about RCC’s associate degree in nursing [ADN] program and said she wanted to pursue that,” said Perry.

After looking over the information with her daughter, she realized, “I had most of those pre-prerequisites and co-requisites.”

Her daughter prompted her with, “Quit your job and go to school with me.”

Thus in 2001 began a new learning adventure for the mother/daughter duo. The two took classes at the Warsaw Campus, along with clinicals in Kilmarnock and Tappahannock, followed by classes at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College and clinicals in Richmond. After much hard work, Perry and her daughter graduated RCC’s nursing program with their ADNs.

“As an adult learner, I was a little nervous, but much more dedicated and focused,” she said. “I was serious about what I was doing and determined to do my very best. I wasn’t interested at all in the social aspect of school.

“I wasn’t the only adult learner in the program, so I didn’t feel completely out of touch.”

During her classes, Perry worked as a “nurse aide at Williamsburg Community Hospital (Sentara Williamsburg),” along with her daughter. “After we graduated, we both were hired at our respective units as RNs,” said Perry.  “I quickly realized med/surg was not for me.”

Before returning to RCC to teach in the nursing program, however, she continued with her ADN working at Medical College of Virginia (MCV), in the mother/baby unit.

“The one thing I loved about MCV, was that it was a teaching hospital,” said Perry. “Everyone was in the teaching and learning mode.”

While her daughter went on to work at many hospitals, Perry decided to return to RCC where she could stay close to home and pursue what seemed to be an aspiring passion.

“I investigated the possibility of teaching clinicals for RCC … [and Dr. Wendy Edson] hired me to teach clinicals and campus labs in the ADN program.”

With this new job, she continued her education at ODU, where she graduated with her bachelor’s  in nursing.

As a teacher at RCC, “I come into contact with a lot of people I know that live and work in my community,” said Perry. “I know that we train nurses through our programs that get a job in local clinics. It’s very gratifying.”

Reflecting on the career choice that took her down an unexpected path, she says, “I’m glad my daughter was in favor of my going to school with her. If she hadn’t done that I would probably be in a whole different scenario.”

Although she could have taken a job at a multitude of hospitals or schools, she wanted to stay with RCC.

“It feels good to know I am giving back to my community in some way … They taught me in the beginning to become a nurse and now I am giving back by teaching others in the same community,” said Perry.

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