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Published November 9, 2021

The latest Carolinas College of Health Sciences nursing graduates are filled with a mix of emotions as they step into their new roles on the frontlines of healthcare. They’ll be starting their new careers at a crucial moment, as healthcare systems continue to feel the impact of COVID-19, and the need for well-trained healthcare professionals is extremely high.  
The Carolinas College Associate Degree Nursing (ADN) program graduated 43 students in October, as the college continues its role as a major talent pipeline for Atrium Health and other healthcare systems in need of nurses.  
One of those new nursing graduates is Tara Igbanol (pictured above left), a Florida native who turned to nursing as a second career path.  
After graduating with a communications degree in 2007, Tara worked for a small antique consignment store for about a decade doing a little bit of everything, including marketing, store staging and customer service. But after the business went through some changes, Tara started to wonder whether that line of work was the right fit for her.  
“I remember one morning sitting on the edge of my bed, asking myself, ‘What do I feel called to do, how am I contributing meaningfully to my community and really what do I want to do?’ It took me some time and real soul-searching to arrive at the answer of nursing,” she says.  
Tara learned about Carolinas College from a friend who was an alumnus of the school.  
“The staff and faculty were really welcoming and knowledgeable, and the campus was in a great location,” she says. “I could sense then that Carolinas College was a community and that students were seen as individuals.”  
Tara was one of the first students to proceed through the college’s new ADN curriculum, part of an overall effort to provide a better experience for nursing students as well as put more nurses into the field sooner. 
 The college added a new May start date and also admitted more nursing students overall. Students now complete the program five times a year instead of two, allowing a more consistent influx of new nursing grads into the field. The vast majority of Carolinas College ADN graduates step into roles within Atrium Health immediately after graduation.  
The college also added curriculum changes to benefit students such as a streamlined curriculum that offers a more consistent sequence in which nursing students take their specialty courses. 
“My cohort was also the first to travel through the program on a linear track with the same students throughout,” Tara says. “Because of this, I think I was better equipped to succeed in the program because the material was taught in a progressive way. We were all learning the same material at the same time and if I didn't understand something, I had 20-something other students to help me grasp the content. There was so much comradery in that.” 
Now, as she begins her new journey into nursing, Tara says there are still many unknowns, even though COVID cases continue to decrease.  
“Added to this are the rising obstacles of misinformation presented to, and the fear felt by the public about the virus,” she says. “I'm starting my career with the knowledge that patients will both trust in my care and also be more skeptical of it. However, that doesn't deter me too much because if I’ve learned anything, it’s that nurses know how to adapt and communicate with all sorts of patients. My journey is just beginning, and I'm excited about where it will take me. The sky's the limit!”  
Tara’s next step is to take her licensing exam, and she’s already accepted a position in the emergency department at Atrium Health Mercy.  
“I am curious about so many things that are happening in medicine right now, but I am particularly interested in the nurse's role in continuing conversations about normalizing mental health as well as promoting accessibility and equality for marginalized communities. As a new nurse I'm looking forward to playing a role in advancing advocacy and education to not only my patients but to the larger Charlotte community,” she says.  
Katherine Parsons (pictured above right) is another member of the ADN’s October graduating class. She’s a Charlotte native who came to Carolinas College after hearing about the program from a friend.  
“I heard the program had great hands-on clinical experience and passing rates, which was an important factor for me. I knew I wanted to go to a smaller school to enhance my learning, and Carolinas College was a perfect fit,” she says. “The program for me has been a challenging yet rewarding experience.” 
Katherine is planning a move to Miami, FL to pursue a career in psychiatric nursing.  
“I fell in love with the culture and arts in Miami and cannot wait to be caring for those of many different backgrounds,” she says. “I want to become a psychiatric nurse because I never want anyone to feel alone, or like they do not have anyone. I want to be there for my patients and make them smile to the best of my ability. I want my patients to feel truly cared for, even when they are not able to care for themselves.”  
Katherine agrees that there’s a flood of emotions with starting a new job, especially during such an unsettled time. 
“Becoming a nurse today is absolutely overwhelming,” she says. “However, the excitement of finally starting my life career outweighs the nerves. When I am feeling stressed, I shift my focus towards the positive. I think about how rewarding, fulfilling, and life-changing my career will be, and automatically feel better. I am beyond excited to be on my own and start making a difference in my patient’s lives!”