Kathy Breland was at the crossroads of her professional and personal life when she decided to take a chance on a career in nursing. She had worked as a hairdresser and dabbled in accounting. But neither job was interesting, exciting, or paid enough to help Breland achieve her dream of owning a home. Her mother in-law, Anna Breland, now a retired registered nurse (RN), encouraged her to try nursing. Initially, she scoffed at the idea.
“God truly does have a sense of humor,” Breland said. “If God would have asked me to be a nurse I would have said “Not this girl.” But He had a plan for me. God used my desire to purchase a home to put me on the path He wanted me to follow.”
Breland was one of 21 graduates in the Class of Fall 2018 who earned degrees in Claflin’s RN to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. Claflin held its first-ever fall commencement Friday, December 14, at the Jonas T. Kennedy Health and Wellness Complex and conferred bachelor’s and master’s degrees to 101 candidates.
A native of Orangeburg, Breland has enjoyed a rewarding and satisfying nursing career that spans more than 30 years. She presently serves as a critical care nurse at Regional Medical Hospital. She received her associate degree and completed RN and LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) programs at Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College.
“I waited until the time was right to get my bachelor’s degree,” Breland said. “It was on my bucket list and I am glad I finally did it.”
Breland, 61, admitted that when she last attended school “many years ago,” she used a pencil and paper to complete her assignments. Conversely, Claflin’s RN to BSN degree program offers courses 100 percent online and represents how technology has transformed teaching and learning in the 21st Century.
“It was very challenging and I could not have made it without the support of Dr. (Shannon) Smith,” Breland said. “I really did not have any computer skills when I started the program. But Dr. Smith was always there to help me. I learned a lot about myself and I was amazed at what I was able to accomplish. I really feel empowered by earning my BSN degree.”
Claflin received approval from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission (SACSCOC) to launch its RN to BSN program during the 2016 Fall semester. The program is designed to provide an opportunity for nurses with an associate degree to complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing while having the flexibility to work full-time. Claflin is the only historically Black college/university (HBCU) in the state of South Carolina to offer a nursing degree. The Class of Fall 2018 represents the program’s fourth graduating class.
Claflin also offers bachelor’s degrees online in criminal justice, business, and psychology. Master’s degrees can be achieved online in business administration, criminal justice, and education.
“The primary goal of our nursing program is to produce highly-skilled and compassionate nurses who will be in high demand and offset the shortage of nurses in South Carolina and beyond,” said Smith, associate professor and chair of the Nursing Department. “We have the opportunity to serve the community by improving health outcomes and contributing to the region’s workforce by producing visionary leaders in nursing and other healthcare professions.”
The Commission for Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) visited Claflin’s Nursing Department in October for an accreditation onsite evaluation.
“The evaluators’ feedback was very favorable,” Smith said. “They submitted their report to CCNE in early November and the board will meet early May 2019 to finalize findings. The official letter of notification will come from CCNE mid-June 2019.”
“At this point in my career, it is comforting to know that I have other options if I choose,” said Breland, who paid off her home mortgage 15 years ago. “I plan to continue working as a nurse until I can’t keep up or if I am unable to provide a high-quality of service to the patients. My experience and BSN may lead to leadership opportunities as an administrator or manager.”
Developing and implementing a community project is required of students in the nursing program before they earn the BSN degree. Breland’s project promoted weight loss, healthy diets, and stress management to residents of the Canaan community in Orangeburg County. She persuaded local volunteer fire fighters to serve as role models and help articulate how a healthy lifestyles improve the quality of life.
“Firefighters are considered the pillars of the community in many rural areas. They have a lot of influence,” Breland said. “I made presentations to schools, churches, and several non-profit organizations about shopping for nutritious foods and how they can be delivered to rural neighborhoods. I was able to get people’s attention and teach them valuable lessons that can help improve their lives. It was very similar to nursing. I really enjoyed working with the various groups. Who knows — teaching and education may be my next career.”