The long path to success
O'Connor found dream career after time in military and at SC4
Tiffany O’Connor has let nothing stand in the way of achieving her lifelong dream of becoming a nurse.
The Fort Gratiot native and 2013 SC4 graduate works as a registered nurse in oncology at Huron Medical Center P.C., and is three months away from completing her bachelor of science in nursing through University of Michigan-Flint.
The road to her dreams, however, was not an easy one.
“I think the biggest part of my journey is I was a single mom going through this by myself; I didn’t have child support or the every other weekends, I mean I was a single mom,” she said. “My biggest thing was taking time away from my child, but I had to do it in order to provide a better life for him and to give him a good example of hard work.”
O’Connor’s journey began after she graduated from Port Huron Northern in 2004 and decided to join the Navy.
“A lot of my family members have served, that was part of why I joined,” she said. “The other was the experience because I knew it would make me a better human being and adult. I went in with the intention of staying in forever but I knew should I choose to get out there would be a lot of great education benefits.”
O’Connor said she spent four years in the military, a year of that deployed in the Middle East. It was an experience she feels has helped her as a nurse.
“It was an experience and one I would never take back,” she said. “I’ve seen so many places and it makes you more sensitive to specific situations as a nurse when you talk about culture. It helps develop teamwork, attention to detail and accountability and it overall made me a better nurse.”
After returning home, O’Connor decided to go into nursing, a career she had always dreamt about pursuing. Because of its location and reputation, O’Connor chose to attend SC4.
“I heard so many good things about SC4’s nursing program, why would I go anywhere else?” she said. “If I was going to get an associate degree from a junior college, this is the one I wanted to get it from.”
After completing the prerequisite courses, O’Connor applied to the nursing program and got in on the first try.
“I’ll never forget where I was and what I was doing when I opened the letter, “she said. “I was in my apartment and I called my mom and said, ‘The letter is here. This is really happening; you’re going to do this.’ I was excited and nervous.”
Before she graduated with honors, O’Connor said she was offered a nurse internship position at McLaren Hospital of Port Huron, and was later hired in full-time after passing her boards. She worked at the hospital for a year and a half before she accepted a part-time position at Huron Medical Center PC working in oncology.
“I remained full time at the hospital and part time at the office because I needed the benefits,” she said. “I was doing three 12-hour shifts and then working 8 to 10 hours a week at the office. It was rough.”
But O’Connor was determined to work in oncology and it wasn’t long before a full time position opened up.
“Oncology was always something I was fascinated by because it’s always changing and there is so much advancement in that area,” she said. “I wanted to work with patients who are in that position, and I wanted to be there for that treatment to make them smile. My job is done if I can make their day better.”
O’Connor said in her position she is tasked with anything from helping patients find necessary resources to mixing and administering chemotherapy drugs.
“We also provide emotional support for the family and patients,” she said. “It’s is a journey for sure and we become like an extended family member because some of our patients are there five days a week. We get very attached to our people.”
O’Connor said SC4 prepared her and gave her the necessary tools to be an effective nurse.
“I have talked to other people who went to Macomb Community College or Oakland University for a BSN and I feel SC4 did a better job in their associate program than they did in their BSN programs,” O’Connor said. “The most important thing of the degree is being hands-on, and SC4 provided that.”
Her advice to students?
“Take it one week at a time and plug on,” she said. “It looks intimidating when you are starting out but you have to keep at it. SC4 is so full of resources that people just don’t use. They told me, ‘Don’t work during the nursing program,’ well I had to work, so I worked and tutored and I was a single mom. Don’t make excuses, you can do it and you will look back and be so proud. There will be no better gratification.”