This is a printer-friendly version of an article from Zip06.com.Article Published July 22, 2020
Rahteisha “Teisha” Pittman recently realized a lifelong goal of becoming a nurse, upon her graduation and pinning ceremony at the Gateway Community College (GCC) North Haven campus. Not only did Teisha achieve her goal of becoming a nurse, but she received Gateway’s Student of the Year Award.
“For the ceremony, there were people out there cheering for us, which was so nice and the award was a surprise—I had no idea that was happening,” says Teisha. “It was an honor because I loved going to school. I had prayed about going to school and I asked God and said if he opened door, I’d walk through it. He opened more doors than I can imagine.”
After graduating, Teisha passed the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to become a registered nurse and was soon after hired to at Cambridge Rehabilitation Center in Fairfield, starting work earlier this week.
“Having the NCLEX behind me took a big load off of me and when I passed, it was like my dreams are coming true. It’s surreal,” says Teisha. “I’m really excited [about my job]. I’m all about patient care, so it doesn’t matter what kind of facility I’m working in, as long as I’m providing care to patients, I’ll be happy. I admit I do have a soft spot for geriatric population, because they’ve cared for so many others through their lives and I feel like now it’s our turn to give back and care for them.”
Her journey to becoming a nurse wasn’t direct, nor was it easy.
While Teisha always dreamed of becoming a nurse so she could help people, it was not the first career path she pursued. With one son and another on the way, Teisha was studying at Housatonic Community College when complications with her pregnancy forced her to put her studies on hold. Two years later, she decided to study accounting at the University of Bridgeport.
“I always wanted to be a nurse, but thought that accounting would give me a good 9-to-5 job for my kids,” says Teisha. “I needed to be able to put them in daycare, but nursing has always been my passion.”
Teisha’s education was then put on hold for several years as she relocated to New Haven to remove herself and her children from an abusive relationship. She worked in various jobs and met her girlfriend Candis Thomas in 2012.
In 2016, Teisha was diagnosed with end-stage renal failure caused by uncontrolled hypertension, leading to a three-times-weekly regimen of hemodialysis, leading to at-home peritoneal dialysis, a nine-hour nightly process. Through her dialysis, though, and at Candis’s urging, Teisha refocused her attention on her goal of becoming a nurse.
“Finding out at 34 that my kidneys were failing was one of the worst times of life,” says Teisha, who is on the kidney transplant list. “My dialysis nurse, Dawn [Lawton], helped me out of a dark, dark place. Having her as a nurse helped me see that I wanted to be that for someone. I wanted to be able to give even a piece of what she gave to me to others.”
Teisha found GCC’s nursing program and enrolled as a full-time student in 2016. She worked through her prerequisites while doing dialysis and was accepted into the nursing program in 2018. Between school, her illness and taking care of her 14-year-old son Joseph, Teisha is quick to admit she couldn’t have made it to graduation alone.
“My girlfriend has been a lifesaver—she has helped me throughout my illness and been a second parent to Joseph,” says Teisha, whose oldest son now lives in North Carolina. “My classes were at night, so she has gone to parent-teacher conferences and helped with homework. She has my back with whatever I need.
“Nursing school is tough and not an easy feat,” she continues. “There were days I struggled, but she was always there to give me that extra boost.”
Teisha’s children, Joseph and Andru, also inspired her hard work. She wanted to set an example for them in achieving her lifelong dream.
“Both of my children have told me how proud they are and I’ve shown them that with hard work and perseverance they can do anything,” says Teisha. “I wanted them to know they could do anything they put their mind to.”
Teisha not only took classes at GCC, but became active on campus. After earning a 4.0 as a freshman, she joined GCC’s chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, serving as vice president of records, executive vice president, and most recently, president. She also is president of the chapter’s New England Region. She also served as the executive vice president of the Student Nusing Association.
“Getting involved with clubs made me more visible on campus and gave me so many opportunities,” says Teisha, who was selected as the student speaker at the farewell celebration for Dr. Paul Broadie as well as at a legislative breakfast. “I got to speak about why I felt that Gateway was important to the students and to the community.
“I encourage people to give community college a try,” adds Teisha. “It has a stigma, but I got so much from Gateway—I have a career and have created a network of professors and staff I can rely on and that support system is still there even after graduation. People shouldn’t write off community college.”
Teisha was so inspired by her teachers that she will continue her education so that she can teach future nurses. Teisha is enrolled in Quinnipiac University’s RN to MSN program, which she will start this fall, while working as a nurse.
“I want to get my master’s so I can go back and teach,” says Teisha. “I didn’t realize I wanted to do that until I saw how tough nursing school was and teaching is another way to give back. I had teachers—especially Myra Randall, Sue Debarge, and Andrea Eckels—who were just phenomenal and went above and beyond to help me as student and as a person.”
At age 38, Teisha is proud to have realized her goal of becoming a nurse. She is quick to say that it was a challenging route, but with the support of her loved ones and hard work, she chipped away at the work over the years.
“I’d tell others facing a challenge to take it a day at a time and breathe,” says Teisha. “Your goals are just dreams that have steps attached to them. Take your dream and start planning it out – one day at a time, one week at a time, one semester at a time. Some days will be better than others and I had my share of tears and frustration. You’ve just got to knock your goals out. The little ones lead to bigger ones and the bigger ones lead to the biggest goal.