The long journey: From patient to nurse
Mason Hatch has traveled much further than the 143 miles his odometer measured from his hometown of Warren, Texas, to Texas A&M College of Nursing in Bryan-College Station. Along the way, he maneuvered around several health obstacles, hit a few financial potholes and made a couple of academic stops, but once he set his sights on becoming a registered nurse, he never took a detour.
“When I was young, I spent a lot of time in and out of hospitals,” Hatch said. “The muscles, tendons, and ligaments in my feet didn’t grow at the same rate as my bones, so as I grew, the soft tissue became really tight, and I had to have reconstructive surgery on both of my feet.” He was also diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a form of muscular dystrophy, and has been under a doctor’s care for that as well. At that point, pursuing a career in health care was the last thing that Hatch wanted to do. “I spent so much time in the hospital that I started to associate health care with pain and sadness.” However, a few people changed that perception and influenced Hatch to consider a nursing career.
“A nurse who took care of me after my second foot surgery made a big impact on me,” Hatch said. “I was going to be stuck in a wheelchair for three months, and she knew that I was very upset about seeing all of my friends going out and doing things I wouldn’t be able to do. She told me that I had the best health care team and that I was healing well and would return to my regular activities before I knew it. She was so encouraging, and that made a big difference on my health and perspective.”
Hatch also found inspiration a little closer to home. “My family is the reason I am where I am today. No matter what happens, I can always count on my family to support me and guide me in my journey through life. My brother Matthew paved the way for my decision to become a nurse. As he was finishing up his Bachelor of Science in nursing at Stephen F. Austin State University, he kept telling me about all of these interesting things he was doing,” Hatch said. “He was excited about applying what he learned in his classes and clinical rotations to helping patients. I wanted to make that kind of difference and to have similar experiences. The Texas A&M nursing program has given me all that and more.”
Destination: Texas A&M College of Nursing
In high school, Hatch was on the varsity golf and tennis teams, but his passion was his involvement in the Future Farmers of America (FFA). “Growing up in a small town, it seemed like FFA was everybody’s passion. I raised chickens, learned about forestry and meat evaluation as possible careers and was involved in leadership activities,” Hatch said. “After traveling to the Texas A&M campus four different times to compete in the FFA’s state contest, I knew that this is where I wanted to be.” But, it hasn’t been easy.
“The nursing program is rigorous and the cost of a college education is expensive, but thanks to a couple of scholarships, including the Ben Read Memorial Scholarship, I was able to focus on being a student the first semester of my freshman year,” Hatch said. “After that, I have consistently worked between 20 and 35 hours a week. It has been challenging, but those early scholarships gave me the support I needed to find my bearings and adjust to life outside Warren, Texas.”
Hatch cites faculty for the success he has found on the road to becoming a registered nurse.
“Our professors demand a lot! They require both excellence and vigilance because they know that we hold our patients’ well-being in our hands,” Hatch said. “But, they are also supportive and encouraging and they treat us like valued colleagues. I can’t say enough about the positive impact that the faculty has had on my life and future nursing practice.” The admiration is mutual.
“Mason’s dedication to nursing was apparent from the first day he was in my class,” said Margaret Bosenbark, MSN, RN, clinical assistant professor at the College of Nursing. “From day one, Mason demonstrated a deep, personal drive to become a nurse. He has taken ownership of his journey and has blown me away with the nurse he has become.”
On the Road to Collaboration
An integral part of Texas A&M’s curriculum is creating and sustaining a culture of collaboration among health care students in dentistry, medicine, nursing, pharmacy and public health. It provides high-quality interprofessional experiences for all health care students and is proven to result in better health outcomes for patients.
“The interprofessional education (IPE) opportunities have helped me to understand how the health care team can and should work together to benefit the patient,” Hatch said. “For example, in our obstetrics class, second-year nursing students and second- and third-year medical students participated in a clinical simulation where an expectant mother was in a car accident. Nursing and medical students played various roles within their respective disciplines to assess and treat the patients. We had an opportunity to participate, observe and discuss the care and outcome. This was a realistic, high-stakes opportunity to test what we have learned and to collaborate with other members of the healthcare team.”
The Next Leg of the Journey
Hatch is excited to begin his nursing practice, but he is also looking a little farther down the road. He will graduate with his Bachelor of Science in nursing in August, and after working for at least a year in an intensive care unit, he plans to continue his education. “The next step in my career was solidified in the class that teaches us how to transition from nursing student to professional nurses and provides a broad overview of opportunities in nursing,” he said. “I am excited about my nursing practice, I love to be challenged, but earning my Doctorate of Nursing Practice in anesthesia is on the horizon.”