From CNA to DON: Education Takes Student Far
Former Rockingham Community College student, Tamela Daves, has made it: she was recently promoted to director of nursing at Morehead Nursing Center in Eden.
“It’s the hardest but most rewarding job I’ve ever had,” said Daves.
What’s hard: “Even at home, I’m still on call.”
What’s rewarding: The residents, the staff, the sense of making a difference in people’s lives.”
Saying her current job is the most rewarding one she’s had is saying a lot. Daves loved being a CNA, was passionate about her work as a wound care nurse, and discovered a love of teaching nursing courses and concepts.
Her introduction to nursing came in 1988, after eight years as a hairdresser.
“It occurred to me one day that if anything happened to my husband, we couldn’t depend on my income to provide for the family,” said Daves. “That’s when I decided I needed to do something else.”
Daves sought help at RCC. She was directed to the college’s HRD (Human Resource Development) program. There she took a battery of interest tests. Those tests pointed her toward nursing.
“I always wanted to be a nurse,” said Daves. “But I was only an average student in high school and thought only the smart, “straight A” students could go into nursing.”
Encouraged by the tests and by continuing education personnel, Daves enrolled in the certified nursing assistant program. From the beginning, she said, the division’s dean, Lisa Hendren (retired), encouraged, mentored and prodded her to succeed.
“She didn’t categorize people by intelligence or skills, but by what they wanted to achieve,” said Daves. “Once she knew that, she told you step-by-step what you needed to do to achieve your goal. And during the times I didn’t think I would make it, she was there giving me counsel and pushing me toward success.”
Daves succeeded and was employed by Annie Penn Hospital after passing the CNA certification exam. At Annie Penn, nurses encouraged her to continue her education. When her youngest child started school, she followed their advice and enrolled in RCC’s advanced nursing degree program. A 1996 graduate, she began a nursing career that took her into public health, home care nursing, long term care, and teaching (she was the CNA program coordinator at RCC from 1998-2008). At every step she has followed in Lisa Hendren’s footsteps: mentoring others as they try to reach their goals.
“RCC is a great school. There are so many opportunities there for people. I cherish the time I spent there.”