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Kristen Cyr
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Once a high school dropout, Wilson excelled
in challenging CCRI Nursing program

May 11, 2015

Lynn Wilson Lynn Wilson

It would have been all too easy – understandable, really – for Lynn Wilson to give up on her dream of becoming a nurse.

To say that this 36-year-old Warwick woman had a lot on her plate is an understatement: as a mother of two, including one child with special needs, she has spent much of the last 10 years caring for her own parents, who have moved in with Wilson and her family while her mother battled cancer not once, but twice.

"We struggle, but we make it work," she said of the family dynamic. Between the income from her husband, Brandon, who works as an assistant facilities director, her mother's disability income and her father's Social Security checks, the family is able to keep the books in balance.

But that delicate balance is set to change this spring, as Wilson graduates with her associate degree in Nursing from CCRI and seeks her first job in her dream field. "I've known since I was young that I wanted to work with people; I tend to get along with them, and I knew that from taking care of my parents I'd be able to do this. My grandmother was an LPN and my older sister Rebecca is an RN," she said.

It took a while for things to fall into place for Wilson; she dropped out of high school in 10th grade, not having much of an interest in school or the drive to succeed. "Both of my parents were dropouts, so it wasn't a big deal," she recalled.

In 2001, after becoming pregnant with her son, Luke, she thought it would be a good idea for her young family if she got her GED® credential. After accomplishing that, she let the thought of attending CCRI percolate for a couple of years.

"My mother-in-law harassed me a lot" in encouragement, she said, adding that at the time, she didn't even drive, so her husband and son dropped her off and picked her up every night. "I wasn't sure what I wanted to do at first. I was getting all A's taking general courses, and thought maybe I'd want to go into nursing, but I didn't think I was smart enough to do it."

Meanwhile, back at home, things were only getting more complicated. Wilson's mother was recovering from her first bout of cancer. Then, the couple had a second son, Jack, who was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and, at 3 years of age, was almost nonverbal. What followed was a spate of occupational therapy, speech therapy, music therapy and, eventually, an all-day preschool.

Wilson would stay with Jack during the day and take classes at night, and eventually got up the gumption to apply to the nursing program in 2011. While she waited, she accumulated enough credits to get an Associate in Arts in 2012. But it would be an uphill slog for Wilson, who could only apply for the nights and weekend program; limited by her schedule, she couldn't begin the program until 2013.

Wilson has excelled in the program, graduating with a 3.53 GPA, and is a member of the nursing honor society, Gamma Lamda. Her kind, passionate persona soothes patients in a way that few medicines could. "You have to show them that extra little bit of attention. That they are a person and they matter," she said of working with patients on her clinical rotation.

From her own experiences as a family member of a patient, having seen her mother through breast and liver cancer, she knows the importance of an attentive bedside manner. "Being in the hospital is the worst possible point of your life," she said. "And if you can make it a little bit better for [those people] ... I want to be able to make a difference and help people get well."

During her rotations, she also has discovered a fondness for a difficult, if important, specialty: wound care. "My first clinical rotation was with Professor John Rood on infectious diseases at Kent Hospital. And my first day, I had to clean out a diabetic foot wound, which horrifies most people, but I find wounds fascinating. He said I was a natural. So when I graduate, I'd like to get my wound care certification and then want to go on and get my [Bachelor of Science in Nursing], but I have to figure out how we would swing that. I will need to work first to have the money," she said.

On the cusp of her graduation, Wilson said it's still hard to believe that the fruits of her labor are truly paying off. "Most high school dropouts don't become nurses," she said. "Sometimes I still pinch myself and laugh about it with my husband," with whom she'll celebrate her 18th anniversary on May 16 – the day after commencement.

"The message is, if you apply yourself, you're capable of anything. I never thought in a million years I'd be smart enough to be a nurse," she said of her time at the college. "And it makes me more comfortable to know that I'll be able to give my kids the things I didn't have, and to feel more secure. I plan on keeping my parents at home. I don't think I could have done this having to go to URI in four years. This was a nice stepping stone."

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Last Updated: 8/25/16