Russell Patrick is used to hard work. For eight years, he worked 16-hour shifts, seven days a week in the coal mines. But this weekend, when he walks across the stage in the Feaster Center, signaling his distinction as a Fairmont State University RN-BSN graduate, he will have officially completed his most difficult – yet rewarding – challenge to date, all while heeding his father’s sage advice.
“He told me, ‘You were blessed with a strong mind and a strong back. Use one or both,’” said Patrick, who also holds a bachelor’s degree in animal and veterinary science. “Nursing is a great field to get into, but you have to give part of yourself to get something back out of it. I’ve worked labor jobs before and not been as tired I am now. There’s a lot of mental exhaustion that comes along with being in the hospital 36 hours a week.”
But Patrick, who has spent the last few years working on a medical surge step-down unit at WVU Medicine, wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I love what I do, and I love helping people,” he said.
Patrick’s transition into nursing came about five years ago when the coal mine he worked for drastically cut employees’ hours, leading Patrick to suddenly reimagine and readjust his life and his career. He spent the next year working in the restaurant industry before following his heart and considering a career in healthcare.
“I had been working at the restaurant for about a year when I made the trip to talk to the Dean,” said Patrick. “We talked for about two hours and toured campus before she mentioned Fairmont State had started its weekend nursing program. Before I left her office, she said ‘Please apply.’”
He did. And as timing would have it, the same day Patrick learned of his acceptance to the program, he was also offered a promotion at his job.
“I went to tell my boss I had gotten accepted into nursing school, and he said, ‘I’ve got some news.’ So, I said, ‘Me, too. You go first.’”
Patrick’s boss told him they wanted to elevate him to the general manager position, an opportunity that Patrick was both flattered and humbled by. But his conviction was strong, and his desire to have a positive impact on patients’ lives even stronger, so Patrick left his job, enrolled in the nursing program and never looked back.
As a nontraditional student, Patrick said the School of Nursing's weekend ASN program and the online BSN program afforded him the flexibility to earn his degree while being able to spend time with his family and contribute to his community.
“My wife and I have a strong faith in God and pray about everything, so when opportunities open, you have to go the way he steers you,” said Patrick. “When I came here to Fairmont, it was such a nice fit. There was just a sense of belonging and acceptance.”
Patrick is looking forward to taking a break from school and enjoying his newly earned degree, but he does have plans to pursue graduate studies in the future, with the eventual goal of returning to his alma mater to teach and mentor the next generation of nurses.
“I always tell my patients that everybody needs a hand up,” said Patrick. “I was able to get a hand up here in order to give one to people somewhere else."