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Published February 3, 2022

When she was young, Melissa Milligan remembers watching her mother take care of family members, and that always stuck with her. That’s where her dream of nursing was born.

But “life happened,” as Melissa describes, and instead of going to college for nursing, she instead turned that passion for helping others toward her own family. While she put nursing school on hold, she instead focused on raising her children.

As a full-time mom, Melissa still worked a few part-time jobs to support her family. She cleaned houses and eventually worked at an HVAC business.

“I didn’t want my kids to go without,” she says. “My parents couldn’t afford to send me to college. I always knew no matter what, they were going to get a college education.”

Sure enough, all three of them did. That included Andrew Blocker, Melissa’s oldest. And just like his mom, Andrew also had dreams of becoming a nurse.

“I have a history of epilepsy, so growing up and being in and out of the hospital made me lean toward the healthcare field,” he says. “I’ve always wanted to help others like I was helped.”

So, while Melissa’s nursing dream remained on hold, Andrew’s was full steam ahead. He enrolled in the Carolinas College Associate Degree Nursing program, graduating in 2010.

“Growing up, she always ingrained in me the importance of going to college, getting a good education and then making a career for yourself,” Andrew says. “Just seeing the way she raised me and my siblings by herself as a single mother – it was really amazing. That just instilled values in me to do well for myself.”

Andrew went right to work after graduation, spending about a year in a post-op unit at Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center before transitioning to the surgical trauma intensive care unit. He eventually went to graduate school, becoming a nurse practitioner in 2017.

At the same time, Melissa’s youngest child graduated from Clemson University. Melissa had accomplished her dream of getting all her children a college education. But what about that other dream? The one she’d put on hold for decades while focusing on her family?

“I thought this might be the time,” she remembers. “I said ‘let’s see what I can do.’”

She started by taking some of her nursing pre-requisites at a local college and then decided it was time to apply to nursing schools. Carolinas College was always at the top of her list after attending Andrew’s orientation. So, Melissa applied.

“I got accepted into the Carolinas College program and I was so excited. The first thing I did was to call Andrew to let him know. I think he was more excited for me than I was!” she says.

Today, Melissa is working her way through the ADN program, learning from many of the same instructors that also taught her son. She’s on track to graduate in May.

“I tell all of my classmates that I follow in my son’s shoes, he doesn’t follow mine. They probably get tired of hearing me talk about him, but I’m proud of him. It’s been a great journey. And the fun part about every clinical – I get to see him,” she says.

That’s because Andrew works in Carolinas Medical Center as a nurse practitioner in the Department of Pulmonary Critical Care Medicine. He recently rejoined the Atrium Health family after stops in Alabama, South Carolina and then in California as a travel nurse during COVID.

“It’s been awesome to watch her going through the same program I went through,” he says. “She’s told us all the time how she wanted to be a nurse, but she wanted to take care of us first. I’m just so grateful for everything she’s done for all of us. And now to see her go back to get this degree. It’s heart-warming. It’s very inspiring.”


Mom Revives Nursing Dream, Attends Same Program as Son

For decades, Melissa Milligan put her nursing dream on hold while she focused on raising her kids. Now, she's finally pursuing her nursing degree, attending the Carolinas College Associate Degree Nursing program - the same program her son graduated from in 2010.