Some people can't wait to go to college to "get away from their parents." Not Elena Gacita---she saved her mother a seat on her first day of classes at Lower Columbia College's School of Nursing in Longview, WA.
All in the Family
Anita Osorio, Gacita's mom, was a nurse's assistant at Beacon Hill Rehabilitation in Longview, where she has worked for the past 16 years. "Going back to school to become an RN was something that was in the back of my mind for the last 5 years or more," Osorio said. But, as a single mom raising four stepchildren solo, "I thought I would wait until all my kids were situated. I finally realized---they'll never be situated! It will never seem like 'the perfect time' to go back to school."
Gacita, who has an aunt in the nursing profession, always knew that nursing was the career path she wanted to follow. She worked as a supervisor at a Starbucks for almost 8 years, saving her money for nursing school. "As I was thinking about school and filling out my applications, I encouraged my mom to apply."
Osorio knew she had been accepted to the nursing program, but Gacita still hadn't heard. Two weeks before the quarter began, "The school called me and asked if I was ready to start," Gacita recalled. The duo ended up in all the same nursing classes together.
"It's always nice knowing someone the first day of school," Gacita quipped.
With two different last names, and vastly different looks-"Mom's Caucasian; I'm half Filipino"-professors and students wouldn't realize they were related until they heard the word "mom" coming from Gacita. The double-takes were priceless!
After just one day of classes, traditional roles had to be reversed, and daughter had to mother mom. "I thought to myself, 'I cannot do this; I need to quit,'" Osorio recalled. "School was overwhelming to me. I was truly lucky my daughter was right there with me, because she 'talked me down' from the ledge!"
School had always come naturally to Gacita, so she took her mom's fears in stride. "I told her, 'Mom, this is crazy; you have more knowledge than I do!' She brings years of work experience to each assignment," Gacita remembered.
"One of the nurses I worked with would tell me the same thing, almost daily," Osorio laughed. "She'd say, 'For heaven's sake, you do this every day! You know this stuff.' So when I took tests, I would think, 'How would we do this at work?' Referring back to real situations at Beacon Hill helped me tremendously as a student."
A Competitive Edge
"I had to hit the books extra-hard to keep up with mom," Gacita joked. It's no joke that the two were fiercely competitive about their grades in class, always comparing scores and trying to outdo each other.
"In one class, the teacher told us, 'Stop competing, you two! Just get over it," Osorio commented. "We ended up getting the same exact grade in that class, right down to the decimal point."
Gacita beat her mother in the race to get an RN credential. "I registered and paid for the NCLEX test ahead of time, while I was in school," she stated. "Mom went on vacation first and then took the test-I win!"
SEE ALSO: Preparing for the NCLEX
Eyes on the Bachelor's Prize
Osorio is still employed at Beacon Hill Rehabilitation, albeit as an RN now. "I used to think, 'Life as an RN will be much easier,'" she reported. "But the action on an acute-care rehabilitation floor is non-stop; our patients are fresh out of the hospital and need a lot of care. At least now I can do assessments and give my patients their medications."
Gacita will soon be starting a new job in the residency program at Providence Centralia Hospital, working in the facility's progressive care unit. Both mother and daughter are contemplating taking more classes to earn their bachelors' degrees. Gacita's message to others is inspirational. "It's never too late to go back to school! I'm 29, and my mother is 57. If we can do it, so can you!"
Anne Collins is a staff writer. Reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.