A little mother-and-daughter teamwork in facing life’s hurdles recently paid off for Tammy and Breanna Matczak when they graduated together last month from health science programs at Montgomery County Community College.
During Commencement, Tammy received both an associate’s degree in General Studies and a certificate in Medical Assisting, while Breanna graduated from the College’s challenging Nursing program.
Although they weren’t in class together, the Tylersport mother and daughter tried to be there for each other.
“Mom has helped me study, and I helped her with the computer and some projects,” says Breanna, 20. “The most important thing was the encouragement she gave me. She was my inspiration.”
Tammy, 51, who herself pursued nursing for a time, says she could empathize with Breanna’s studies because she had gone through some of the same classes and knew how tough they were.
A former stay-at-home mom and child-care worker, Tammy had taken nursing courses on a part-time basis after a divorce prompted her to seek a full-time income. She later shifted direction into the College’s Medical Assisting program.
“It was a hard time for me,” says Tammy of nursing. “I was trying to work enough to pay my bills, and I wasn’t able to keep up with it.”
Already employed as an EKG assistant at Grandview Hospital, Tammy says she enjoyed the hospital atmosphere. So she decided to put her college credits toward an associate’s degree in General Studies and earned the Medical Assisting certificate.
She will be ready to look for a job after she completes in an externship this summer.
“I like the idea of working in a doctor’s office. I like people,” she says.
Breanna says her mother encouraged her to go into nursing and now she considers it “the only profession I can see myself doing.” Through the program, she says, she met a lot of future nurses who have become good friends.
“I knew how difficult it would be because my mom had been doing it,” Breanna says of her course load. “I was nervous but my mother always gave me encouragement.”
She adds that the program “expects a lot out of you, for you to learn a lot and retain it. And, over time, the information gets more complex.”
In addition to classes, Nursing students have clinicals, on-the-job experience in medical settings. “You’re really thrown into it the first day,” says Breanna. “We were expected to care for the patient, to give them baths, get them ready for the day,” she says.
Fortunately for her, she had already interacted with patients as a waitress in a nursing home, where she still works. That has stoked an interest in nursing in gerontology or critical care.
“Older folks have a lot to offer us, if you give them the time to tell their stories. I appreciate their wisdom, knowledge and stories in general,” she says of her nursing home work. “I like giving a little extra time to sit down and talk and make sure everything was OK — a little more than the job description. I think the residents really enjoy getting to know the people that work there.”
Having succeeded in school, the mother and daughter will soon be offering each other moral support again as they hit the job trail. “It makes me nervous, but then everything new makes me nervous,” says Breanna of finding a job. “But I know that I’ll succeed.”
Tammy jokes, “Someday maybe she will work for a doctor, and I will work under her.”