A new generation of nurses: Chelsea Huggins

Published 6:27 pm Friday, October 7, 2016

Chelsea Huggins discovered that everyone is on the same page when he or she starts the nursing program at Beaufort County Community College. The students who have two years’ experience as certified nurse aides and the students who just walked in the door might have the same skills it takes to be a great nurse. This was a relief to Huggins, who at 18, is the youngest student working toward an associate degree in nursing.

Huggins came to BCCC almost by accident. She managed to speed through high school in just three years at New Bern High. Her plan was to attend ECU and become a doctor, following her passion for the health care field. After some volunteer experience in a hospital, she decided she was more interested in the hands-on approach of a nurse.

Her goal changed to becoming a nurse practitioner.

At 17, she applied for the RIBN program at ECU. This program, short for regionally increasing baccalaureate nurses, is a statewide program that hopes to put more nurses with four-year degrees into the workforce. The program is a collaboration between community colleges and nursing schools like ECU’s College of Nursing.

The program assigned Huggins to Beaufort County Community College, although she first thought she was heading to the city of Beaufort, and the beach, in Carteret County.

After coming to terms with the fact that she was attending college in Beaufort County, she fell in love with BCCC. Huggins switched from the RN to BSN program, a comparable program that will get her to a BSN in similar time.

With the growing expense of universities and the limited slots in their programs, many students are turning to community college not just for a two-year associate, but also as a step toward a four-year bachelor’s. Students can also find smaller class sizes and more institutional support at a community college like BCCC. The college has a person on staff, just to help nursing students through the admissions process and with their testing requirements.

Since she began her studies at BCCC, Huggins has had opportunity to transfer to Craven Community College in New Bern and return to her family, but she has enjoyed her experience at BCCC so much that she has stayed in Washington. She found that the support was lacking at larger institutions.

“The faculty go out of their way to care about you,” Huggins said. She was named a BCCC ambassador, a title awarded to the best representatives of BCCC. An ambassador gets his or her tuition covered for a year in exchange for speaking and helping at community events. She is also the recipient of the James Franklin and Hannah Roberson Bagwell Scholarship and a member of the Beaufort County Association of Nursing Students.

She has come to embrace the diversity in the nursing department, including the age range and the lifestyles of other students. She has found that the best study partners are her older classmates and the ones with children. Intergenerational studying not only takes place in the classroom, but in her family as well. Huggins’s grandmother is a retired physician. “She’s made me a perfectionist about things,” she said. Her grandmother makes her practice until she has it right.

Ultimately, she plans to work as a neonatal nurse either at Vidant Hospital or UNC Health Care. She wants to deal with both parents and infants. “My heart has led me in that direction,” she said.

Huggins’ fortitude means that she can handle the toughest of situations. The young student does not have patience for the cynicism of some of the nurses currently working in the field.

Her age will not slow her down. Huggins’ skill, passion and empathy put her on the same level as her classmates. She may have wanted a few more waves and a little sand, but Huggins has found her place at BCCC.