MTCC header students

MTCC Voices- Tessa Workman

For those who work in education, particular those who actively teach students, hearing from former students is always a treat, whether the time is spent catching up on each other’s lives or reminiscing about old times—even when the old times are not so old.

But when students reach out more to praise and thank instructors than to be nostalgic, those moments are extra special and provide encouragement during tough times. Trying to teach nursing in the middle of a pandemic is difficult enough, but throw in an occasional class quarantine because a student has contracted COVID or has had significant exposure to someone with COVID, the situation becomes seemingly unworkable.

Tessa Workman

Words of Praise

And then comes an email like the one McDowell Tech’s Practical Nursing Education (PNE) faculty recently received from Tessa Workman, and the load and effort becomes much more bearable.

“I just wanted to reach out to y’all and say, ‘THANK YOU,’” Tessa wrote. “I’m not gonna lie, when I first started working as a nurse, it was hard—nothing like I expected. I have had the opportunity to work with patients experiencing COVID-19 since November, and at first, I thought I was not prepared…. But honestly, I love It because I’m having to think so much,” she continued.

After graduating from McDowell Tech’s PNE program, Tessa became a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) at Autumn Care of Drexel last fall. In addition to completing McDowell Tech’s LPN program, Tessa also completed Nurse Aide I and II at McDowell Tech and worked at Blue Ridge/ Grace Hospital in Morganton as a Nurse Aide for 6 years.

“I find myself thinking of how y’all taught me,” wrote Tessa. “I honestly could not have made it this far without everything y’all taught us—from just being prepared for the daily stuff to knowing what to do when the sky is falling.  When I write a nursing note, I read it over and over to make sure I have documented everything that needs to be documented.”

Pam Sain, MSN RN, was one of Tessa’s instructor’s in the PNE program is not at all surprised at how well Tessa is handling the crisis nature of her new job. “Tessa worked extremely hard to be successful in the nursing program. She worked full-time, was a full-time mom to two small children, one of whom was a newborn, and still managed to support her classmates. She even reaches out to support students in the current class,” Sain said.

Tessa’s Journey

While Ms. Workman (Tessa) made the impossible seem possible to her instructors, the road to success was not an easy climb for her.

“At one time,” said Tessa, “reaching my career/academic goal seemed like such a long way off, but I was closer than I thought. I had taken all of the classes that I needed to start nursing school, but my then I ran into my first obstacle, the TEAS test. I needed to score a 63 to be admitted to the RN program, but I only scored 57. I was close but not enough.”

The Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) is an essential component of the nursing admissions process.

“Then,” said Tessa, “an old co-worker told me about the LPN program. I met all of the admissions requirements, so I applied. But then, in December of that year, I found out that I was pregnant, just a few months before I received my acceptance letter for the LPN (PNE) program at MTCC. There’s no such thing as perfect timing. I talked with my doctor and my parents, who encouraged me that I would be able to do the program.

“My daughter’s due date was August 19, which just happened to be the first day of class in the LPN program. Little did I know that would be the first of many stressful days to come. I ended up having my daughter on August 12th, and started the program the following week.

“First semester was an eye opener for me My family helped me with my children so I could go to school, study and work, but my classmates Silvia and Brittany are what really helped me through nursing school. They were my late night study partners, and my shoulder to cry on when I didn’t think I was going to make it.

“When McDowell Tech says that your advisors are there for you, they mean it. I owe much of my success to Ms. Sain. She pushed me to become a good nurse. She talked to me when I needed it. After the first semester, I needed a good grade on my final exam in order to continue to the second semester. She believed in me and made me believe in myself. I made it to the second semester.”

“I remember Tessa as a quiet, yet determined, student,” said Brooke Waycaster, MSN RN, a member of the PNE Faculty. “She always had a positive mindset, even as COVID-19 turned our classroom from in-person to online learning at mid-semester. That was a difficult transition for many students, but I am very proud of how they overcame this challenge.”

“We are handed a lot of things in life as a test, and it usually doesn’t go the way we expect it to,” Tessa stated. “As a student, I had to adapt to social distancing, online learning, and virtual clinicals. Now as a nurse working in the pandemic, I know that I have been prepared to adapt to anything and have to respond to change quickly.” 

Tessa acknowledges that it was indeed stressful, “…but we got through it, and then we started talking about pinning. That was when finishing nursing school became real to me. The next thing I knew, I was writing out my ‘thank you’ to be read at the pinning ceremony, trying on my dress whites, and doing a practice run. I remember thinking, through all of my struggles, my late nights, early mornings and waterfall of tears, ‘I have made it.’”


In her email to the PNE faculty, Tessa further praised her instructors: “The little things each one of you worked countless hours to get me to understand have stuck with me, from critical thinking skills to remembering, ‘Bevel Up!’” (“Bevel Up” is a program that teaches healthcare workers best practices in delivering compassionate care to mentally ill patients, drug addicts, homeless persons and others.)

“If I had to do a program over, I would choose MTCC over and over. Your countless hours spent in clinical settings and lab time and lectures have not gone to waste. I’m becoming a successful nurse, thanks to each one of you. You believed in me and I learned to believe in myself. Thanks, again,” she concluded.

“I am humbled by Tessa’s kind words to our nursing department,” said Judy Melton MSN RN. Melton is the former Director of the PNE Program and now, Dean of Health Sciences.  “This is why we as nursing educators do what we do. Tessa is a role model for all students who set their goals high and refuse to quit.  She took advantage of all the resources MTCC has to offer, especially our outstanding PNE faculty.”

The Next Chapter

Ms. Workman is now planning the next chapter in her nursing career. In 2022, she hopes to enter the LPN-to-RN Bridge program at McDowell Tech, a program for students who enter the Associate Degree Nursing program with a degree in Practical Nursing. These students are able to shorten the traditional two-year ADN program by one semester due to their previous academic work in Practical Nursing.

The journey to success is sometimes difficult, but Ms. Workman says that the faculty at MTCC wants to see people succeed. “Having people support you is a must. Without my parents, friends, and the dedicated staff at MTCC, I would not be a successful nurse. They supported me and pushed me, and I am thankful for all of them!,” said Workman.

Tessa Workman: A McDowell Tech Success Story. A McDowell Tech Voice.

Ryan Garrison, Interim President; Don Ramsey, Robert Ayers, Judge Corey MacKinnon, Trustees; Gary Stroud, Trustee Board Chair; Judge Ellen Shelley

McDowell Tech Trustees Sworn in For New Terms

Judge Ellen Shelley of Marion, NC had the unusual privilege of swearing in one of her judicial colleagues, Judge Corey MacKinnon, as the newest member of the McDowell Technical Community College Board of Trustees prior to the beginning of the board’s September meeting.

Read More »