By: Tedi Rountree
May 25, 2015

Michelle Thompson Smith

Number 21, May 26, 2015

Michelle Thompson Smith ’16 has a lot to balance in her life as she works towards her B.S.N. Originally from Dacula, Georgia, and previously stationed at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, the Army veteran has been living on St. Simons Island for three years and taking nursing classes at the College. She already has a B.A. (2008) in finance from North Georgia College and State University.

The birth of her son, Gaines, three years ago is what propelled her into nursing.

Gaines was born with hemolytic disease and he wasn’t expected to live. “He was eleven days old before I could hold him,” she recalled. “The first week of his life, all I could do was touch his tiny hand. He was on a ventilator with IV tubes attached to him. I started researching the disease, knowing I wanted to be in a position to help any other family facing this kind of situation.”

Gaines will be three years old in June – now a happy, healthy toddler able to play with his four-year-old sister, Kenedi.

Smith chose Coastal Georgia because of location, affordability, and program quality. Her father had moved to the area a few years earlier and works at Pinova. Her husband, Brian, is from St. Simons Island. An engineer, he works on boats in the oil fields of the Gulf of Mexico and is gone for days at a time. So she cares for the two children, works as a waitress at Crab Daddy’s, and studies.

“Working on a B.S.N. under these circumstances is challenging – but not impossible,” she said. “And I love the clinical experiences, where I can see what I am actually going to be doing with my training.”

Smith wants to start in pediatric nursing, specifically neo-natal intensive care (NICU). Eventually she plans to earn a Ph.D. Although she loves numbers and analysis, as her first degree in finance indicates, she feels driven. “Part of it is my work ethic, just as it was when I was in military service. But another part of it is my love for education. Both come from my parents, who said that if I can do something, then I should.”

Smith stressed the level of commitment required to be successful in the B.S.N. degree program. “It’s not enough to want to be a nurse. Don’t even take up a seat in the class if you are not prepared to give more than 100% to this effort, 24/7.”

One of the things she values is how seriously the nursing program prepares nursing candidates for post-graduate board certification through the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). “Targeting doesn’t compromise what you are learning,” she emphasized, “it just provides a paradigm to structure that learning in order to assure familiarity. It is as important to have immediate recall when standing crib side in the nursing unit as when answering questions on the exam.”