The end of her mother’s life became the start of a new career for Christy Womack, who will receive her Associate Degree in Nursing from South Piedmont Community College on May 13.
“I had never had any healthcare experience until my mom’s diagnosis. As we cared for her, I felt called into nursing,” said Womack.
While she could hear the call to be a nurse, it took some time — and lots of faith — before Womack decided to answer.
She’d worked for the same company since her early 20s, had a good salary, lots of vacation time, and plenty of flexibility. As anyone would be, she was afraid to walk away.
“But I started feeling like I couldn’t do it anymore. Every day, I became fidgety to get out of there, and I started dreading going to work,” she said.
Just as those feelings started, her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
“Not only did the diagnosis change my mother’s life, it changed my sister’s life and my life. For the next eight years, we became completely consumed with caring for my mom. All the while, the feeling — I can now say calling — to get out of my very comfortable job just intensified,” Womack said.
“The more we cared for her, the more I felt I was called to be a nurse, but I was in my mid-40s and just kept thinking, ‘I’m too old for this! I can’t possibly learn all that it will take for me to be a good nurse.’ But the feeling to move was so strong. I just took that one step.”
After two years of deliberation and prayer, Womack began taking courses online while working full time and caring for her mother. South Piedmont’s HyFlex technology, which makes it possible for students to study in person or online through an asynchronous or synchronous format, helped Womack to balance her responsibilities.
Once her general education classes were complete, Womack took another, much bigger step.
“I stepped out in faith, quit my job, and applied for and was accepted into the nursing program,” Womack said.
“By this time, my mom’s disease had progressed quite a bit to where she needed more care than my sister and I could give her. With much reluctance, she was placed in a facility.”
For two years, Womack worked as a CNA while attending South Piedmont full time, completing her nursing clinicals, and spending as much time as possible with her mother.
“Although I never questioned that this was the path laid before me, these were the toughest years of my life. The last eight-week class of my third semester proved to be the hardest struggle; I failed the class. This sent me into a circle of questions about whether I was really called to do this. I couldn’t make sense of why this happened.”
A few weeks later, Womack had clarity. As she waited for the next semester to start so she could retake the class she failed and finish her last credits, her mother’s condition worsened. Rather than being in class, Womack was able to be by her mother’s side.
“I didn’t have to worry about anything but being with her. We both needed that. I realize that many people won’t believe God orchestrated these events in my life, but looking back, I can see that God made a way for me to have the time off of school that I needed to be with my mom,” Womack said.
After her mother passed last August, Womack picked up with her program. She’ll graduate just one semester later than she’d planned, at the end of National Nurses Week, on the day before Mother’s Day.
She’ll dedicate her accomplishment to her mother, and she hopes it serves as inspiration to others who may be considering a second career.
“I’m a 48-year-old woman who decided to get out of her comfort zone and step out in faith,” she said.
“I learned how important it is to care for and serve people in their most vulnerable time, because that’s what my mom needed and what she deserved. I plan to do that for people for the rest of my career.”
Learn more about South Piedmont’s Nursing program at spcc.edu/nursing.