Christopher Mercer goes to nursing school Monday through Friday at Nash Community College. But he says the knowledge he’s gained as a nursing assistant at Nash UNC Health Care for the past three years is as valuable to him as his classroom experience.
Mercer, 26, said his work on the cardio-pulmonary step-down unit has enhanced what he’s learned via books and in classes.
“You can learn so much more in person, actually putting into action what you’ve studied,” Mercer said. “And I’m lucky to have coworkers that are so skilled and willing to teach me or let me observe them when they’re doing things other nursing students might only get to read about.”
Mercer, an NAII, works on the weekends and said he usually picks up a few night shifts a week. He’ll graduate from NCC with an associate degree in applied nursing in May.
Mercer said he was able to complete his degree with the help of Nash UNC and its Nash Nurse Scholars Program.
The scholarship program is open to nursing students at Nash Community College and Edgecombe Community College.
Nash UNC Human Resources Vice President Katie Davison said the program offers an average of $7,000 per student for tuition through the nursing program and $100 a month stipend until the student graduates.
“Upon graduation, the scholars will be committed to work full-time at Nash UNC Health Care for up to three years,” Davison said.
She said the scholars also participate in quarterly social and mentoring activities at the hospital to support the students’ journey through nursing school.
“The scholarship serves as an investment in local students and furthers our partnership with local colleges to build a pipeline of nurses, which is a critical need for this area,” Davison added.
Nash UNC Health Care began the scholars program in 2017 and had seven scholar nurses start full-time work in 2018. Six nurses started working full-time in 2019.
There are currently nine students in the program attending Nash Community College and four students enrolled in nursing school at Edgecombe Community College.
Mercer said he can’t imagine doing anything other than nursing and hopes to keep learning and attending school after he earns his associate degree.
“I helped take care of my grandfather several years ago when he was ill. That’s when I knew nursing was something I was good at and something I was interested in,” Mercer said.
Mercer said he’s learned the value of working on a great team thanks to his co-workers at Nash UNC.
“They’ve taught me what it means to be part of a team. We all help where we can, regardless of whether it’s ‘our’ patient or ‘our’ job,” Mercer said. “There’s a lot of family at Nash — we are all a family, working together and we try to treat our patients the way we’d want our family members to be treated.”
Mercer said he’d encourage any local students serious about going to nursing school to check out the Nash Nurse Scholars Program.
Anyone interested in applying may contact Shelly Morgan, clinical recruiter at Nash UNC Health Care, at Shelly.Morgan@unchealth.unc.edu for requirements and where to apply.