Switching careers: SON graduate fulfills dream of becoming a nurse

May 22, 2017, 07:55 AM by Kurt Koopmann
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For Charmarie Ritchie Reese, the path to getting her nursing degree went down a long road that led her first through the criminal justice system.

The 49-year-old mother of two and grandmother of two received her bachelor’s degree in nursing from UTMB’s School of Nursing on April 28 at the Moody Gardens Convention Center in Galveston, along with more than 400 fellow graduates.

When Reese graduated from Ball High School in Galveston in 1985, she had the desire to become a nurse, but at the time, life took her in another direction and school was not in the immediate picture. When she decided to pursue a college degree in the early 1990s, the competition to get into a local community college program was intense.

“I decided I needed to do something for my kids to make a better life for us, and to be a role model for them,” said Reese. “Unfortunately, there was a waiting list for the nursing program and I felt I did not have the time to wait around for a year or more before beginning my studies.”

Reese happened to see a presentation on careers in criminal justice and decided that was something she could do.

“It was still helping people, which was important to me,” she said.

By 2003, Reese had earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a master’s degree in criminal justice management. She had a fulfilling and successful 13-year career in the field serving as a probation officer in Brazoria County.

Back in the 1990s, she did not realize that UTMB had a nursing school. However, in early 2016, when nursing was once again calling her name, she knew about UTMB and knew that was where she wanted to pursue her dream of becoming a registered nurse.

Reese said the hardest thing about going back to school was having to change her mindset, looking at things in a different way and using critical thinking skills.

“In many college programs you simply brain dump, you memorize the information and pick the right answer and then move on,” said Reese. “In nursing, you have to retain all that knowledge because there may be four correct answers, depending on the case. You have to use your critical thinking skills to pick the best answer for the patient.”

Since the beginning of her time at UTMB, Reese has known that it was the best choice and said the nursing faculty does a great job of preparing students for nursing’s high-pressure work environment.

“I can tell you I will be graduating with the necessary skill sets to succeed in nursing as a result of UTMB’s program,” she added.

According to Reese, her background in criminal justice also contributed to her success in working toward a nursing degree, as it provided her with the ability to assist and guide people in making autonomous decisions that can benefit their lives.

“We all face difficult times in our lives,” said Reese. “During those times, we as professionals need to be there to guide, understand and show empathy to help individuals move forward.”

Working with other, often much younger students, has been the most memorable experience of her 16-month journey. According to Reese, the students start out as individuals but quickly learn to work together in order to grow and succeed.

“I am different from the traditional student but everybody in my class has been nice, helpful and supportive in any way they could. I never felt left out, which is a testimony to the acceptance of diversity in the school and from my classmates,” she said.

When asked if she has plans for an advanced practice nursing degree, Reese says the option is always there.