PENDLETON --- Taylor Thrasher Bell is 24 years old, married, the mother of a three-year-old daughter, and worked two full-time L.P.N. jobs while completing her R.N. degree at Tri-County Technical College this past year.  She will receive her fourth Tri-County degree today (May 9) at the College's spring graduation ceremony.  Over the past seven years, she earned medical assisting, LPN and associate in science degrees.

She already has landed a full-time position with AnMed's ER and will begin working in June pending the results of her NCLEX licensure exam.  During the month of May, Bell won't be taking a vacation with her husband and daughter; instead, she will spend it gaining more skills by mastering the hospital's Epic Super user records system.

"I like a challenge and variety and the health care field provides both," said the Belton resident. 

"Taylor has passion and drive.  She had to work hard in my class and she did not back down from doing so," said Stacy Smith, associate degree nursing instructor.  "She learned how to prioritize and I watched her develop her leadership skills.  Taylor is committed to being a nurse. She knows what is important and is willing to go the extra mile to accomplish what she needs to get things done." 

Bell says she hasn't approached college in a conventional way since graduating early at age 17 from Pendleton High School in 2010.  She enrolled at Tri-County and began taking prerequisite classes for the associate degree nursing program.  She narrowly missed acceptance into the program and instead of questioning her career path, she decided to build credentials while awaiting acceptance into the nursing program.  She was admitted to the one-year medical assisting program, graduated in 2013 and began working as a nursing assistant/patient care technician at Oconee Memorial Hospital.

She was a few credits shy of earning an associate in science degree so she completed that degree in 2014.

Several months before graduating in December 2014, she gave birth to daughter, Melea, and began to adjust to being a new parent with the help of her then-fiancé and now husband, Trevor.  "I took a different route due to life's circumstances.  I went back to work at AnMed after five weeks of maternity leave because I was scared I would lose momentum in my work and my studies," she said.  In 2015 she earned an LPN degree, passed the state board exam and worked full time as an LPN while being a full-time student in the RN program. "I was very determined," she said.  For the past year, she has worked two jobs --  as a home health nurse for ResCare and at AnMed Health's Urgent Care Connect.   She also served as the communications director on the Student Nurses Association board for Tri-County. 

She and Trevor planned a wedding and married in 2016 during her summer break from nursing classes. 

"We got married and put our house on the market and it sold in four days," she said.  Two days after the wedding, the newlyweds decided to forego a honeymoon and moved into a 28-foot camper while they renovated a family house. 

Preparing to graduate next week, she said, "I took the long way to the RN but it was worth it.  I really feel prepared and more knowledgeable.  I feel like I can adapt to any situation.  If you are determined you can do anything. 

"College used to scare me, especially having tests on the same day.  But I learned to come out of my shell and ask for help.  There are tons of resources --  tutoring, classmates and instructors who bend over backwards to help and their doors are always open. Tri-County's instructors teach us to be versatile nurses, to think on our feet, to develop good critical-thinking skills."

"Taylor has matured a lot as she has gained her credentials. She has become confident in her ability as a nurse," said Julie Vernon, LPN program director, who was Bell's classroom instructor as well as clinical instructor.   "I actually took my mother to a health care facility recently and was pleasantly surprised to see that Taylor was her nurse. The doctor there commented on Taylor's versatility in working in that facility."

"I thought I would be at Tri-County for just two years and be done.  Taking it credential by credential prepared me for the intensity of the RN program and allowed me to work while going to school.  Although my path has zig zagged, I wouldn't be the nurse or the person I am if it had gone any other way," said Bell. 

School remains a priority for Bell.  She has been accepted into the online USC nursing program and will begin this fall.