Nursing grad moves from ‘job’ to a career

Ted Wise stands outside Asante Three Rivers Medical Center.
RCC nursing graduate Ted Wise, now a registered nurse, stands outside Asante Three Rivers Medical Center in Grants Pass, where he works in the Intensive Care unit.

Ted Wise is a skilled Intensive Care nurse at Asante Three Rivers Medical Center. With an associate degree in nursing from RCC, he not only got a job offer before graduation but is also on track to continue working toward his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing. He has big plans for his career.

But those plans weren’t always so clear.

More than a decade ago, Ted earned an elementary education degree from Humboldt State, just as the No Child Left Behind Act was coming into effect. “I decided that I didn’t want to teach to a test,” he said. So when a position opened on his father-in-law’s commercial crab boat in Crescent City, he put teaching on hold.

“It sounded like a fun and adventurous job,” Ted said, and it offered plenty of attractive benefits. A crab boat career allowed him to earn a living working long hours from October to March, then in the off season he could spend time traveling, setting up a small homestead, and working odd jobs in construction and landscaping to fill the gaps.

But then came the disastrous crab season of 2015-2016 when domoic acid spoiled the harvest and left many crab boat workers scrambling for income. On top of that, Ted and his wife wanted to start a family, which led him to do some serious soul-searching. “I needed to think about my future,” he said.

At the time, Ted’s wife had enrolled in RCC to become a nurse, and he saw firsthand how interesting and fulfilling a career in nursing could be. “I helped her study with flash cards, and the draw to an applied science degree was stronger than going back for a teaching credential,” he explained.

Then two more defining experiences occurred. First, Ted’s father was diagnosed with cancer. “I helped him through his difficult time and saw the impact a great nurse can make,” he explained. Then Ted experienced his own medical emergency—anaphylaxis from multiple wasp stings. “It was surreal to experience fear and anxiety as my breathing tightened up and the calm and organized manner in which the ED personnel treated the condition,” he recalled. “Shortly thereafter I decided to become a nurse.”

Initially Ted looked into two schools—Oregon Health & Science University and RCC—and “settled on RCC due to its better value,” he said. “It is a highly regarded nursing program in our community where most if not all graduates have a job before they graduate. And it does this at a fraction of the cost.”

Ted admits going back to school in his 30s was a challenge. “I am a very motivated person and very goal-oriented. Once I decided on nursing, I gave it my all during prerequisites to maintain straight A’s in between fishing seasons,” he said. “The two seasons I worked crabbing during prereqs were two of the worst financially, and my first son Rory was born in between prereqs and the nursing program. It was all a big juggling act.” But once Ted was accepted into the associate degree program, he was able to leave the crab boat behind and commit to school full-time without working—due largely to the help of the RCC Foundation.

“The Foundation gives out a tremendous amount of money to hard-working students each year. There are quite a few scholarships just for the nursing program,” Ted explained. “They have made it a breeze so you fill out one application and apply to hundreds of scholarships. I was very fortunate, and the Foundation covered the full cost of the nursing program through various scholarships.”

In addition to the RCC Foundation, Ted credits the staff and instructors at RCC for making his experience successful. “The teachers are incredible at RCC. If you are willing to put in the effort to do the work, they will go the distance and make sure you have what you need in order to succeed,” he said.

Ted also commends RCC for providing excellent clinical experience working in local hospitals. “During each term we were in the hospital applying our knowledge,” he said. “I feel like I was prepared to enter the nursing field as an entry-level nurse — capable, safe and aware of my limitations.”

In Ted’s graduation year of 2019, RCC saw its biggest group of male nursing graduates since the program began more than two decades ago. Eleven men completed their nursing degrees that year, and they all got a job. Now both Ted and his wife are working as skilled nursing professionals.

“I am proud to work in the critical care unit with an incredible staff,” Ted said. “I can honestly say that I enjoy working with everyone in my unit. It is a challenging job on almost all fronts: medical complexity, night shift, end-of-life care, balancing patient care and charting, etc. In many ways it is very different from commercial fishing. I enjoy the mental challenge that nursing offers. Fishing, while it was sometimes fun, could be a bit robotic with repetitive tasks. Nursing is huge in its diversity of types of nursing offering lateral opportunities as well as vertical. I am certain I made the right decision to switch a job for a career.”

So what’s next for this fisherman-turned-healthcare professional? This year he is earning his critical care nursing certificate (CCRN), and next year he plans to complete his bachelor’s degree in nursing. Ideally Ted would like to earn a master’s degree and become a certified nurse practitioner or, he says, a nursing instructor at RCC.

To others who might be considering a change in career, Ted says go for it—but be prepared to sacrifice. “There are plenty of reasons to stay up until 2 a.m. that are fun; writing papers and studying aren’t on the top of that list. But it’s only a few short years and then you have a degree with a great job,” Ted said. “Take it a day at a time. Apply to the RCC Foundation. Find a career suited to your talents and interests and then really go for it 100 percent. And ask for help—because everyone needs help.”

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