Brandy Spradlin was 16 years old when she and her toddler daughter were in a car accident that would ultimately set her on her career path to nursing. Her daughter broke her femur, and in the ensuing chaos of the accident, an off-duty nurse was first on the scene to provide initial assistance.
“She showed up and took control of the scene,” says Spradlin. “She was so nice without being overbearing. She knew exactly what she needed to do. She was so calm. That always stuck with me.”
Her daughter, who was taken to the hospital by medical helicopter, got the critical care she needed, thanks in part to the fast-acting nurse.
“Looking back, I don’t know who this lady is. I never knew her name. I never got to tell her thank you, but she was fabulous when I was a mess,” she says.
And while Spradlin never had the chance to express her gratitude to the nurse, the memory of that moment sparked her desire to help others and put her on the path to Lorain County Community College’s nursing program to achieve her dream of becoming a nurse — and eventually, a midwife.
A career vs. a job
In the 20 years since the accident, Spradlin has earned her GED and then became a medical assistant.
“I’d always wanted to go back to school to become a nurse, but I had small children at home,” she says. “So when I got divorced, I was a single mom and realized how much I needed to go back to school to find a better job — a career vs. a job.”
Along the way, her blended family grew to 11 children, and she has navigated many personal challenges to get where she is today — on the verge of graduating from LCCC with a degree in nursing. The flexibility to work her class schedule around her hectic life and the support of her family have kept her on track as she works toward finding a job she loves and making a better life for her and her family.
Although she earned her phlebotomy license in 2007, she wanted more. Around 2011, she enrolled in LCCC, taking as many of her prerequisite classes as she could using flexible options such as online-only and blended coursework, earning both her associate of science and associate of arts degrees.
Scholarships have helped offset the cost of tuition, and she says the assistance has alleviated some of the stress as she balances work, home and school life.
Today, as she works toward finishing her nursing degree in May 2019, Spradlin, 36, is employed as a nursing assistant in surgical oncology. After graduation, she plans to take her National Council Licensure Examination, become a registered nurse and enter the field of obstetrical nursing. Although her ultimate goal is to earn a master’s degree and become a midwife, she is excited to be nearing completion of a goal she set 20 years ago to become a registered nurse.
A mother’s example
While most of her earlier classes were online, the core curriculum requires on-campus classes. The transition to being on campus has been difficult for Spradlin, who’s used to being at home for her children, but a supportive husband and older children who help with the younger ones have made it easier. And she gets support from her 18-year-old daughter, Ashley, who also attends LCCC taking prerequisite courses for the nursing program, and children Chase, 17, and Dakota, 16, who attend LCCC’s Early College High School program.
“When I started working and started school, I wasn’t seeing my kids as much, so it was nice to be able to see them at school,” she says.
Ashley says she enjoys having her mother on campus for support.
“I think it’s cool,” she says. “If I have a bad day, I can go to mom because she’s at the same school.”
Like her mother, Ashley’s schedule is full; she works six days a week while taking classes at LCCC, and helps take care of the younger children when Spradlin is at school and Ashley is not. She attended the college’s Early College High School program, where she graduated high school with both a diploma and an associate of arts degree. And also like her mother, she aims to gain entrance into LCCC’s nursing program, with the goal of working in an emergency room. She says the example set by her mother has helped drive her toward her own goals.
“I admire that she’s been able to balance a lot,” Ashley says. “She got her GED. Then she became a medical assistant. And at this point, she’s got six of us in the house and is still managing to become a nurse. It makes me realize that what I’m going through right now is nothing compared to what she did.”
For both Spradlin and Ashley, LCCC’s flexibility and affordability have allowed them to pursue their interests, even when daunting personal responsibilities had the potential to derail their efforts.
And to those facing similar situations, when the obstacles to achieving their goals might seem too great, Spradlin says people can do anything they set their minds to.
“A lot of people look at their situations and think that it can’t be done, but with just a couple changes, it can be done,” she says. “I’m a perfect example of that. It’s rough, and the road is not easy, but at the end of it, it’s definitely worth it, and it’s definitely possible.”
A no-nonsense approach
Brandy Spradlin says all of the Lorain County Community College teachers she’s had in the
nursing program have been great, but one in particular stands out for her: Nancy Urrutia.
Urrutia, a former full-time instructor in the nursing program who taught the health assessment course — the first nursing class nursing students take — and now an adjunct clinical instructor,
has a reputation for being a no-nonsense teacher.
“She was really tough,” Spradlin says. “But she really prepared me for this program.”
Urrutia says her tough-love approach is intentional.
“It’s a very difficult profession,” Urrutia says. “I really feel a responsibility to help prepare them for not just passing the single class they’re taking with me but for the environment that they’re going to be entering. It is a no-nonsense approach because I want to make sure they know there won’t be a lot of hand-holding. People will expect a lot of them.”
Spradlin says the nursing program is by far the hardest thing she’s ever done — and this from a woman with 11 children. It’s also been one of the most rewarding, and she says she’s excited about the opportunities her education will afford her.
“I’ve always wanted a job that I like doing, because so many people don’t,” she says. “My education will allow me to get a better job, which means I’ll make more money. But thanks to LCCC, I’ll also have a career that I love.”