Even at a young age, Parker Rigby knew that working in the medical field was for him.
Now, as a young adult, the spread of the coronavirus isn't deterring Rigby from entering the nursing field.
“I think that any student that signs up to be a nurse, we kind of know what we're getting into, regardless of what disease the patient might have,” said Rigby, 21. “This is what we signed up to do — we signed up to help people. That's the risk I'm willing to take.”
Rigby, who will soon graduate from Meridian Community College, is one of many students across the country stepping into the field at a challenging time for healthcare workers.
Some may be scared, but Rigby is ready to get to work.
“We've been waiting on this since we started,” he said.
Jacob Whitney, who started the nursing program at MCC in August 2018, said applying the skills he's learned in the classroom will be challenging, as he shifts from theory to real world medical care.
“When you make the transition during the middle of the pandemic, it can be daunting, but exciting at the same time,” said Whitney, who described nursing as a calling, and not just a job.
“You are placing yourself in a high-risk situation, while other people or other careers don’t take on that responsibility,” he said.
“To me, it’s an honor to enter my nursing career during this, because this is a very challenging time,” Whitney said. “If you can make it in the challenging moments, you can make it in the moments that are not so challenging.”
Whitney said he is ready to help, but getting to work may take a while, as he'll have to get certified with the Mississippi Board of Nursing.
The testing process might take longer because of restrictions on the number of people who can take the test at one time, he said.
Whitney's classmate Braxton Beech has been in the nursing program for three years, fulfilling a passion he's had since high school.
“I'm definitely anxious to see how my career will start, being that it will start during the middle of the pandemic,” he said. “I do feel like my teachers at MCC have definitely prepared me for this."
“I'm ready to step up to the plate and serve my community whenever I can,” Beech emphasized. “You can’t ever be scared – if it's something that you've signed up for, you just have to do it, and be as safe as you can.”
East Mississippi Community College student Jaqulia Lawrence, who works as a licensed practical nurse, said the virus is not keeping her from finishing her courses to become a registered nurse.
Lawrence said she's already working with COVID-19 patients.
“I wouldn’t say that it really shocked me, but I think so many people who don’t work in the medical field don’t realize the severity and the seriousness of the things we have to deal with every day besides COVID-19,” she said.
Julia Young, a freshman in the nursing program at EMCC, has no plans to change her major.
"It's concerning," she said of the pandemic. "But it has not deterred me."