At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.

Grad looks toward career in nursing

With in-person classes and clinicals canceled, nursing student Stephanie Morton adopts the deck as her new office. Donated photo With in-person classes and clinicals canceled, nursing student Stephanie Morton adopts the deck as her new office. Donated photo

For years, Stephanie Morton had focused her daily energy on homeschooling her four kids, but as the children grew into teenagers and young adults, Morton started thinking about her own education. Two years ago, she enrolled in the nursing program at Southwestern Community College. 

Morton, 43, had no way of knowing that graduation would coincide with the explosion of a pandemic in which her chosen profession would occupy center stage. 

“They’re kind of the superstars right now, when you think about the medical profession,” said Morton. “It was kind of interesting.”

Morton said that she’s fascinated with the human body and the intricacy of creation, and that she’s driven to help when things go wrong with that finely tuned machine. She’s a caretaker, she said, with a passion for health, fitness and supporting people through vulnerable times. 

That’s what led her to the nursing profession in the first place, but it’s also what caused her to feel frustration when the pandemic prompted SCC to cancel in-person clinicals toward the tail end of the semester. 

While she said that she understands the school’s need to ensure that its students stay safe and are able to graduate, “there’s a part of me that was like, this is exactly what I’m doing and where I need to be.”

So, Morton completed her last two months of classes and her last month of clinicals from home. Ultimately, she said, she doesn’t believe that the move to virtual education hindered her ability to learn from the program — rather, it gave her an appreciation for just how much it is now possible to do virtually. The biggest disappointment, she said, was not being able to come together with her classmates for the pinning ceremony that would have marked the end of their two-year journey together. 

Still, Morton is satisfied with her education and excited for the career that is to come. She’s been hired to work on the medical surge floor at Harris Regional Hospital, with a start date of June 22. While she takes the coronavirus and the dangers it poses seriously, she said that she’s not afraid to begin a career that could bring her in contact with infectious patients. In the medical world, there’s always the risk of catching something — if anything, she said, she feels even more confident now that she has had the opportunity to learn how to take proper precautions. 

“We’re taught and equipped,” she said. “Not that things can’t happen — certainly they can. It’s a risky job, being a nurse, but you know that going into it.”

Go to top