Piedmont Technical College
"If you feel like you can't do it, go to a technical college and take a look around. It's really inspiring."
My name is Patrick Craven. I’m a third semester nursing student. After high school, I went to college and did two years at Lander University where I spent a lot more time focused on my social life than on school. After that, I joined the military and did almost five years in the Air Force before moving back home to Greenwood. I was a police officer for four years before getting injured.
I went to Winthrop and got my Bachelor’s degree in sports management after being out of school for about 14 years. I ultimately decided that I didn’t really want to work in sports because I love it too much. It’s more of a passion and release from everyday life than a career. Between internships and externships, I could already tell that at some point I was going to wind up hating it if I made sports the focus of my work.
I wound up moving to Charleston and decided I needed to get my life together. I had wanted to work in medicine since I was a senior in high school, and this was my chance. I planned to go to physician assistant school at Presbyterian College, but needed to take prerequisites. I came to Piedmont Tech to do that.
While at Piedmont Tech, I worked in the healthcare division and became close with one of the instructors, Miranda Gaillard. We started talking about my life and plans, and I ended up taking the TEAS test. This began my future in nursing.
You’ve had a roundabout journey. What inspired you to go into the Air Force?
I went into the Air Force because I needed to get away. I wanted to play soccer somewhere and get away from home, but it just wasn’t happening. In order for me to grow up, figure out who I am and decide what I wanted to do with my life, I needed to get out on my own. I wanted to get out of South Carolina, see different things and experience the world. The military can offer that.
How did that path lead to law enforcement?
Originally, the whole reason I went into law enforcement was because I was actually told by a recruiter, who wanted me to join the reserves, that I couldn’t get my GI Bill to go back to school because the military had already paid for some of my school and paid off some of the student loans I had before I joined. You can’t use both of those options in the same listing.
How did you know healthcare was the path for you?
My sister is a nurse and I have other friends in healthcare. I also did a senior project in high school with the doctor that did a knee surgery I had in 10th grade. Because my grades were so bad at Lander, I knew there was no way I was going to be able to get into medical school and I would need to find another option. Even when I was a police officer, I’d go on a call where someone was hurt and find I gravitated to the medical side with the EMS team.
How was your experience different at a four-year college versus technical college?
Lander felt like it was chaos all the time. I always felt like I was a number there, and it’s not even that big. Universities have so many people to think about, it’s hard to be treated as an individual.
At Piedmont Tech, I’ve had some of the most personal relationships with instructors. I had an instructor give me their phone number and say, “If you need anything just text me and I’ll get back to you.” Even using our internal software, I didn’t want to bother professors on the weekend, but within 10 minutes of sending an email I would have a text message from the professor offering help. I feel like a person. People care, and it has been a way better experience than I ever could have imagined.
How did Miranda Gaillard influence your path?
When I came to Piedmont Tech, I was a student worker in the healthcare division. My direct supervisor had a health condition and I needed a replacement. Miranda became my supervisor after being there for only three or four weeks.
One day, she asked me what I wanted to do. I told her I want to work in mental health at the VA. As somebody that has been diagnosed with PTSD myself, I’ve never met a prescriber at any VA facility who is also a veteran.
She said, “I know you talked about going to PA school, but what about nursing?” We started talking about being a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner and an avenue to take to get to that. If I got into nursing school and graduated, I could go on to nurse practitioner school versus taking prerequisites for PA school with no promise of getting in. Now, I’m going to get the foundation I need taking mental health classes. When I graduate, I will be able to work in mental health whether it be at the hospital or somewhere else.
What did you have to overcome on your journey?
When I was at Winthrop, we found out my dad had stage IV liver cancer that wound up metastasizing and spreading. That was hard because he lived a few hours away from Greenwood. I wanted to quit so many times to come back and help him, but I put my head down and got through it. I wound up graduating with honors.
What have you learned about yourself on the journey?
I think I’ve learned how far and hard I can push myself. You never really know what you’re capable of until that happens. The most exciting part is just knowing that this is what I’m supposed to be doing. I used to wake up and feel miserable. The alarm would go off in the morning and I’d dread my day, but that has completely changed because I know this is the right path for me.
What advice do you have for others on their journey?
We only get one life and one chance at this. Do what makes you happy. If you’re miserable at work and your heart’s not in it, make a change. We spend three-quarters of our lives at work. That’s more than you get at home. Make those hours count by doing something you want to do; something you don’t dread in the morning. Even if it seems like it will be rough getting there, it will be worth it in the end.
It doesn’t really matter how old you are. I will be 35 when I graduate from nursing school. I’m in class with people who have kids and drive from Georgia, North Carolina, Columbia. They are all here for the same reason. These people are making the change to achieve something that matters to them.
If you feel like you can’t do it, go to a technical college and take a look around. People may not be in the exact same situation as you, but they’re all working toward a goal. It’s a diverse group of people from all walks of life. There is a lady in my class who is an engineer. She’s in her 50s or 60s and she’s now enrolled in nursing school. It’s really inspiring to be around those kinds of people.