By Bob Fowler
Roane State staff writer
This is a paradox. While she couldn’t stomach the sight of blood and didn’t want to be a nurse at first, Roane State student Brittany Irwin is on the road to becoming a registered nurse.
One reason: “When I set a goal, I always want to achieve that goal,” said Irwin. Besides, she said, once she obtained an LPN certificate, her qualms about blood subsided. Also, there are several registered nurses in her family.
While she likes to attain personal objectives, it’s going to take some time for her to become an RN. A busy mom working full-time as an LPN, she can only take two Roane State online classes a semester as she first pursues an associate degree.
“I would rather it take me longer to complete the program and do well than to take on more and just squeak by,” she said.
“I will be shooting to start the LPN Bridge Mobility Program in the fall of 2022, putting my graduation date in 2024,” Irwin, 31, said of her plans to obtain her RN degree.
“Once I get my RN, the doors that open are endless,” said Irwin, a resident of Rocky Top (formerly Lake City). She and her husband Mitchell are the parents of Cayden, 13, and 6-year-old Kinzley.
Irwin graduated from Halls High School in Knox County and obtained her LPN certificate in 2012.
She worked at a nursing home for several years before she was recruited for a job at University Cancer Specialists at University of Tennessee Medical Center. “You have to have a heart for that,” she said. “It can be very heart-wrenching, but also joyful when people overcome cancer.”
She now does pre-certifications with insurance companies for various treatments. “It’s kind of different for me, but I like doing them,” she said, adding that denials of treatment plans have decreased significantly since she took on those tasks.
Irwin enrolled at Roane State in the summer of 2020 as a Tennessee Reconnect student, where older adult students receive scholarships that cover tuition. She had received thumbs-up reviews about the community college from a cousin and a friend who graduated from Roane State’s physical therapy program.
“Going back as an adult has really helped me because of my life experiences,” Irwin said.
Thus far, “all my teachers have been great and helpful,” she said, citing Associate Professor Jala Daniel as a standout example. “She was really helpful if I had a question” about the challenging anatomy and physiology course.
When her home computer malfunctioned while she was taking an exam, “I was freaking out, but she let me retake the test,” Irwin said of Daniel. “Things like that really make a difference.”
Irwin said her communications class instructor, Associate Professor Matt Waters, “was very responsive if I had a question, and he offered suggestions for speech topics.”
She also praised Roane State Success Coach Calleb Capshaw. “He helped me a lot with Tennessee Reconnect this semester.”
For more information on Roane State’s nursing program, visit roanestate.edu/nursing.