“I thought that coming to nursing would give me a better insight to teach folks and help expand my profession.”
A challenge from his father pointed Mike Watkins to a career of serving the community and helping those in need.
As a junior in high school, Watkins’ father encouraged him to help out in the community, so he signed on as a member of the junior rescue squad, sparking an immediate interest in medicine. He spent 20 years working in EMS, including 10 years with Hanover County Fire EMS and seven years as a flight paramedic for VCU LifeEvac, before deciding on a career change that led him to the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Nursing.
“I was looking for new challenges and ways to expand myself,” he said. “I’ve done a lot of teaching, trying to build up paramedics. I thought that coming to nursing would give me a better insight to teach folks and help expand my profession.”
Returning to school wasn’t easy, though. Watkins juggled a family with two children and work with his course requirements for VCU’s accelerated Bachelor of Science in nursing program, while also completing his Master of Public Administration.
“By going back to school full time, I was able to take my core classes for the M.P.A. and I actually finished my professional paper while in my second semester of nursing school,” he said. “My two kids were also pretty young, so another benefit was that VCU’s day care was right next to the School of Nursing. I could drop them off, go to school and pick them up. It would have been much more challenging anywhere else.”
After graduating from nursing school in 2009, Watkins and his family have returned to a more balanced lifestyle.
“My wife is now a part-time nurse and I work full time,” he said. “That’s the advantage of nursing. You have the ability to be flexible. I think that’s a very good thing for the future.”
Watkins also returned to his roots, working in the emergency department at CJW Medical Center – Chippenham in Richmond, Va.
“When you deal in emergency medicine, you never know what is going to happen,” he said. “You run the gamut from being a clinical operation, taking care of very run-of-the-mill things to extremely ill patients. Every call, every patient who comes through is just a little bit different. It’s nice to have that diversity.”