Growing up, you might have read, or read to your children, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” The story is about a boy who starts his day with gum in his hair and ends it with lima beans for dinner. Most individuals can relate to the title of the book, recalling a similar day in one’s life. However, it is unfortunate when that day is the first day of an individual’s first clinical.

Heather MitchellAs Heather Mitchell prepared herself for her first day of clinicals, the phone rang at 4 a.m. As with all phone calls that happen very early in the morning, it was not good. The sitter had called to say that she couldn’t make it. That is when the panic set in.

“I cried uncontrollably,” said Mitchell. “I told myself that I shouldn’t even go. My nursing career is over.”

Prior to this day, she had spent the last 16 years as a data analyst for a medical malpractice insurance company. The daily process of looking at claim after claim led Mitchell to a change of heart and a building of confidence.

“My passion for taking care of people led me to the other side. I needed to do something more,” explained Mitchell. “All the claims had taught me what not to do. It showed me what nurses really do for the patient.”

The single mother of three then spent the last years of her career attending night classes at Jefferson State Community College in Alabama. She would go to work earlier in the mornings, straight to school afterwards and work even harder to find time to be mom. Somewhere in between she would discover time for study and homework.

The hard work paid off. Mitchell was selected to the Phi Theta Kappa All-USA Community College Academic Team, an achievement that recognizes academic excellence, leadership and services that extends beyond the classroom. Along with the PTK honors, she received a Bronze Level Coca Cola Scholarship. Of the 1,700 Nominees, Mitchell was one of 25 selected for the honor.

Not long after receiving the honors, a letter arrived in the mail with the return address marked Mississippi University for Women. The letter requested that Mitchell come to tour the beautiful campus of The W. The letter also included the important word “scholarship.” She immediately googled Columbus, Mississippi.

Finding that campus was only two hours away, Mitchell wasted no time in scheduling a campus tour in 2013. Falling in love with The W upon arrival, she applied the same day. Her acceptance would lead to a for sale sign in the front yard of her home and the packing of many boxes.

Mitchell started her journey at The W by taking three classes in the fall of 2013 to complete her perquisites for nursing school. The day after completing her last class for fall 2013, she filled out an application for the Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program and was accepted among the BSN program’s early selections.

As doubts began to sink in and tears rolled down her face on that the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, things soon turned around. After working through the situation of a bailing babysitter, as Mitchell described it, she would arrive to her first clinical 20 minutes late.

“After being 20 minutes late, I had convinced myself I would not be able to complete nursing school,” said Mitchell.

At the clinical, she found the support of Beth Turner, instructor of nursing, who had been through a similar situation. Another nursing instructor, Jessica Jeremiah, suggested a website to Mitchell for support. Through, Mitchell found the invaluable resource of a reliable sitter who became like family.

Mitchell is quick to say, “From day one, they [W faculty] have been supportive.”

If Mitchell had quit that day, she would not have gone on to be named the first vice president for the Mississippi Association of Student Nurses, an organization that represents nursing students in schools throughout Mississippi, including associate and baccalaureate degree programs. The association works to develop nurses, influence the education process and encourage nursing students to participate in healthcare projects.

She also would have never earned the title of “class-mom”.

“I am the oldest. That’s OK. I’m kinda the mom,” said Mitchell. “I always have the paper clips, lint roller and the printouts that someone may have forgotten.”

At the age of 47, Mitchell persisted her way to a BSN degree with the help of her 22-year-old roommate and classmate, along with her personal cheerleader, her daughter.

“My daughter definitely knows the importance of homework, studying and not waiting until the last minute,” commented Mitchell. “She is currently deciding on either being a nurse or a singer when she grows up. It depends on what day it is.”

Mitchell remembers many nights when she would come in and sit at her desk doing homework, writing papers and studying while Bristol, her youngest daughter, would sit at her desk doing her homework.

“She knew when it was finals time, Mommy would be crazy, but she worked with me,” explained Mitchell.

Mitchell was pinned as a nurse on May 13 and graduated with BSN degree May 14.

Upon graduation, Mitchell had already been offered a position at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Birmingham, Ala., on the med/surg orthopedic floor. She started on June 6 and has already painted a princess pink bedroom in their new home.

Acknowledging the feelings of accomplishment and relief, Mitchell has already started researching and planning a return to college to receive her master’s degree and ultimately doctorate in nursing leadership and administration. She hopes within 10 years to be a director of nursing in a hospital setting.

Degree Completion