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Sick Child Fuels Career Change For Lakewood Woman

Submitted Photo Shannon Scoma is pictured with her husband, Jim, and son, Sawyer. Scoma went back to school to become a registered nurse.

Shannon Scoma didn’t figure herself as the type who would end up in a classroom as an adult.

“I never thought I’d go back to school,” the Lakewood woman recounted, “and, honestly, I had other friends who went to nursing school and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe you’re going back to school. That’s so lame.’ It was not appealing to me.”

That mentality changed with the birth of her son, Sawyer, in 2017.

At 6 weeks old, Sawyer was diagnosed with a heart defect as well as pulmonary hypertension; he spent nine months in intensive care at Golisano Children’s Hospital in Rochester.

“We stayed out there the entire time, so we basically lived in the hospital,” Scoma told The Post-Journal.

Between the “wonderful nurses and physicians” who took care of her son and learning more about the inner-workings of a hospital, Scoma began to seriously ponder a career change.

“It kind of made me realize it’s very impactful for families and patients,” she said of the intimate care. “The one-on-one relationship that you have when your child is in the hospital or you are in the hospital. And just all the medical things that I learned, it started to interest me. … It just kind of sparked and piqued my interest in getting into nursing.”

Scoma recently graduated from the nursing program at SUNY Jamestown Community College and was part of a class that received a 100% pass rate on the National Council Licensure Examination to become registered nurses.

“This 100% pass rate is a testament to the hard work, dedication and commitment of our students, as well as the expertise and support of our faculty,” said Heather Burrell, associate professor and director of nursing at JCC. “We are thrilled to see our graduates achieve such a high level of success.”

Six years after his diagnosis, Sawyer is ventilator- and oxygen-dependent and is fed through a feeding tube. He’s also had intermittent stays in the hospital.

Nonetheless, he’s an active boy who likes to jump on the trampoline and climb on things.

BACK TO THE BOOKS

Going back to school was by no means a simple or easy task. Prior to her career switch, Scoma was a pharmacy technician for 12 years.

She began taking classes at JCC in January 2021 before applying to the college’s nursing program that spring.

There was a lot to juggle between work, a sick child and the intense classroom material that now occupied much of her free time.

“I mean, nursing school, it’s stressful. It’s a lot and it’s overwhelming,” she said. “It consumes a lot of time, but I had the support of everyone at home and then I had a close group of friends at JCC.

“Everyone in my class, and my professors, were all very supportive of my situation.”

As noted on JCC’s website, the nursing program is designed for full- or part-time study and can be completed in a minimum of two academic years of full-time study. Registered nurses can work in hospitals, physician’s offices, home health care services, outpatient clinics, schools, hospice care and rehabilitation facilities, among many other career options.

Scoma was no stranger to JCC when she returned to the campus in 2021. She previously received an associate’s degree from the college in the early 2000s.

Her second venture into higher education provided plenty of academic challenges.

“If you know anybody who’s been in nursing school, it’s not easy,” she said. “It’s challenging in itself and is like no other type of schooling that I’ve ever had.”

“It’s not your typical type of schooling,” she continued. “You have to change the whole way you think of things. … It was adjusting to how much time it takes to study and read because you had exams, sometimes every week, and sometimes you had two or three exams in one or two days.”

In Scoma’s last year in the nursing program, her son was hospitalized during Thanksgiving and Christmas. She used Zoom to attend class while staying in Rochester to be with her son. The arrangement may not have been ideal, but became necessary “just so I wouldn’t get behind and have to drop out of the program,” Scoma said.

She found time to be with her family – she credits her husband, Jim, for being supportive during her schooling – and to study.

“I think finding the balance of home and work and school was probably the most challenging thing,” she said.

MAKING NEW FRIENDS

Because Scoma’s class was on the smaller side, she said many of the students ended up becoming close friends. She noted that a few of her fellow classmates provided notes of lectures she missed while spending time with her son in the hospital.

When she was out for several weeks, other students often inquired about her. When she returned, she was peppered with questions about the condition of Sawyer.

“Everyone was so supportive, and I think that was the nice part of having such a small class,” said Scoma, who noted that class members got together for drinks after taking their final exam.

“I think it was just nice having a small group of people who knew each other. The nursing school is some place where you kind of make friends because you’re all in the same situation with learning and struggling.”

Scoma is currently employed as a registered nurse working on the fourth floor at UPMC Chautauqua. While still in school, she did an internship at the Jamestown hospital that provided her hands-on experience and made her fall in love with the job.

She’s grateful for the assistance she has received in her career change.

“The most amazing part was all the support that I got from everyone,” she said, “and, you know, from family, friends, friends at school, professors, my coworkers – even the nurses and physicians out in Rochester. Many just kind of cheered me on along the way and were there for me and my family.”

She specifically credited two professors, Debra Bablak and Dawn Babbage, as well as three friends, Samantha Michael, Sue Hawley and Kim Scoma, who helped her along the way.

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