SANFORD - Life is anything but typical for Ruvi Suarez. The nurse at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital works 12-hour, overnight shifts -- three days in a row and every other weekend -- and then picks up some overtime in her unit caring for cancer patients and others admitted for surgery.
When she's not working, the single mother is caring for Caitlin, her five-year old daughter that Suarez describes as "a surprise baby." Caitlin was born during Suarez's senior year at North Moore High School in Robbins and is clearly loved by the entire family. On the nights Suarez is working, Caitlin spends time with her father or grandma, and when Suarez had to study for nursing school, other family members gladly stepped in. "They were truly a blessing," Suarez says about her family. "And they still are."
Nursing is a job -- actually, more of a calling -- that Suarez loves. It's a path she crafted for herself under less-than ideal circumstances. "Being a mother in school gave me more grit," she explains. "If life would have been different, I might not have pushed myself. But because I'm a single mom, I felt like that gave me extra motivation to lead by example. Tomorrow, if she faces some challenges along the way, it's like, yes, you can overcome any challenges in your way."
It's also a path she credits, in part, to the opportunity she embraced at Central Carolina Community College. Suarez entered CCCC with an interest in nursing sparked during a high school health science class, but no guarantee she would be admitted to the nursing program. She left with two degrees -- the Associate in Arts for university transfer and Associate in Applied Science in Nursing -- plus admission to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte nursing program. She expects to graduate with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing this year and eventually pursue a master's degree in public health nursing.
Suarez received a lot of support from other nursing students. Several were mothers, too, and they helped each other a lot, especially through particularly challenging times. Other support came from faculty members. Suarez says there were many, but two came immediately to mind: Scott Byington, her biology teacher, and Aaron Mabe, a former admissions counselor who worked with Suarez while she was part of the CCCC Student Ambassadors, a group of student leaders who represent the college in the community.
Suarez says that Byington, now the college's Dean of University Transfer and Advising, guided her through course options to find which would work best for her nursing aspirations, while providing an attractive alternative if things didn't work out exactly as planned. That was especially helpful for Suarez, who was the first in her family to pursue a four-year degree.
But both helped her succeed. "If I had any questions, they were there and helped me with resources at CCCC," she says. "They were always pushing me to do more and not settle."
That inspiration flowed both ways. Suarez also left an impact on her teacher, who still recalls her hard work, persistence and desire to make a better life for her family. "I am grateful to have had a small part in her success," Byington says. "Working with Ruvi and students like her reminds us all of why we chose education for our careers."
Around midnight, while most people sleep, Suarez is giving medicine to patients on her floor. There's a short break coming, probably sometime around two or three o'clock, before she begins reviewing lab work, drawing blood and dispensing another round of medicine. Around 6:45 a.m. she will update the nurse who handles the day shift and then head home.
Melanie Harrison, a registered nurse and Suarez's mentor at Moore Regional, was once Suarez's preceptor as well -- someone who provided guidance, tutoring and direction two years ago as the new nurse began work after graduation. She describes Suarez in glowing terms -- among other things, as "a wonderful nurse," "a sweet girl" and "a team player" -- and believes her young colleague has a very bright future ahead.
"She's already a wonderful nurse, but in the future will only get better with time and experience," Harrison says. "She's a shining star for your college. I hope she'll stay with us for a long time."
To learn more about Central Carolina Community College, visit www.cccc.edu.
Central Carolina Community College graduate Ruvi Suarez is now making a difference in the world as a nurse at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital.