April 15, 2014

Jessica Pope
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

Becky Shell: Gaining Confidence In Nursing While Giving Back To The Community

VALDOSTA — Becky M. Shell was a sophomore at Lowndes High School when she decided that she wanted to pursue a career in the field of nursing. Just days after graduation, the 21-year-old Valdosta resident began taking classes at Valdosta State University.

“I’ve known my whole life that I wanted to do something in the medical profession,” she said. “I love people, love being around people, and I knew that I wanted to work in a job where I could meet and help people. There are so many opportunities in the nursing profession, so many ways to grow, so much you can do.”

Once accepted into VSU’s College of Nursing and Health Sciences, Shell discovered that she could make a difference in the health and well-being of her fellow citizens sooner rather than later. She even discovered a nonprofit, volunteer-driven health care organization that she hopes to continue working with for many years to come.

Shell spent several weeks working at Tift Regional Medical Center in Tifton, Ga., during the spring semester of 2013, the second semester of her junior year. Eight hours a day, two days a week, she went from department to department, putting the knowledge she learned in the classroom to good use.

“I was able to put my hands on real patients,” she said. “I put in IVs, nasogastric or NG tubes, catheters. I administered shots and medication and provided other basic nursing care. My favorite part was the gastrointestinal or GI lab. I got to focus on one patient at a time and really see how things work in a hospital.”

Shell also spent one day working with the Partnership Health Clinic, a free primary health care facility maintained by the Lowndes County Partnership for Health and staffed by physicians, physician extenders, and nurses who offer their time — and talents — without compensation to serve the needs of the working uninsured. She ran triage, calling patients back from the waiting room, checking their vital signs, and gathering information before sending them to an exam room. She also helped with paperwork and readied exam rooms for the next patient.

Looking for somewhere to volunteer her time the following summer, Shell returned to the Partnership Health Center.

“It is such a great place, and the team does all kinds of wonderful things for people who don’t have insurance. The doctors and nurses care so much about these people and will do whatever they can to help them out, like hook them up with resources, educate them as best they can. I am blessed to have insurance and be able to go to the doctor. These people are on a waiting list to get into this clinic for three months, and they do not complain.

“I learned a lot about how medical billing works and about pharmacology, and I discovered other services available in this community. I learned how to talk to people and how to listen. It was a more in-depth experience, and it gave me much more confidence. Any time I had a question, it was answered. It was an amazing learning opportunity because the staff was eager to teach me, and they allowed me to enter exam rooms and view procedures. I got to see people willing to give of their time because they really care about helping other people — which is the reason I entered nursing school. It was great.”

The following fall semester, Shell spent several weeks working in more critical areas at South Georgia Medical Center, including intensive care and surgery. She also had a chance to work in the labor and delivery, nursery, and postpartum areas and see a new baby enter the world.  

“Right now I’m learning the basics of what I need to carry on in my career. Once I get into that career,” added Shell, who is spending her final semester working alongside a preceptor at an area health care facility, “I know I will start learning new skills and getting more advanced as I practice. Gaining confidence is a biggie. I know I have the know-how, but sometimes my hands are shaking as I do what I need to do, but I do it anyway. I tell myself that I can do it — and then I do it.”

Shell expects to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.) on May 10. She hopes to further her education, become a family nurse practitioner, and work in public health.