Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of profiles on Campbell graduates. Learn more about this week’s spring commencement.
Roommates Erica Thomas and Summer Cain came to Buies Creek because all the signs seemed to point to Campbell.
Cain heard about the school through a cousin who considered it while college-hunting. Then a friend of the family in her hometown of Elizabethtown gave her an admissions packet. She liked the look of the campus, but didn’t see anything about a nursing program for undergraduates — a dealbreaker for Cain, who dreamed of being a labor and delivery nurse. When she saw the announcement of Campbell’s pre-nursing program a short time later, she knew it was the place for her.
Thomas planned to become a nurse, too. She applied to several colleges to keep her options open, but the Selma native says it was a string of fortuitous camel appearances that convinced her she belonged at Campbell. She attended a baby shower with tiny camel cake-toppers and saw a news story about a camel while watching TV with her dad, all in the same week.
Thomas took it as a sign.
She and Cain met for the first time as freshmen in Pat Barker Hall, and the two have been friends and roommates ever since. A few weeks out from graduation, they can still remember what surprised them most about the school when they first arrived.
“I wasn’t expecting so many opportunities for free food, free events and gatherings for the whole school” says Thomas. “It’s definitely not like a big university. Every time I see Jason Hall [assistant vice president for admissions], he knows my name and where I’m from, and he asks about my mom and dad. You can’t find that at a lot of other places, and I love it.”
“I didn’t think I would meet people like my high school friends,” adds Cain. “But even the first year, literally every 200 feet, there’d be someone saying ‘hey.’ It really is a family, and it’s home.”
Thomas says the family atmosphere of Campbell was just as apparent in the close-knit health sciences community. In their team-based learning program, she and her fellow nursing students collaborated in rotating groups, learning to work with a variety of peers and be efficient under a deadline. One of Thomas’s favorite memories was helping the department produce a “Twelve Days of Nursing” video for the holiday season.
“Just belonging to a department that would take the time to create something like that and being able to see it all come together was so great,” says Thomas. “Especially as part of the first class.”
Both roommates are excited to be leaving a legacy at Campbell. As part of the first graduating class to have studied in Campbell’s pre-nursing and nursing programs, they’ve had the opportunity to give their input on the program’s organization. A facilitator asked the group of students for feedback throughout each semester to make sure the program was meeting the needs of its pioneer students.
“A lot of our suggestions got to be implemented for the juniors,” Cain says, “and the juniors will pass on their feedback to the next year. Our voices are being heard.”
To the future students of the nursing school, Cain and Thomas want to say “take it easy on yourself.” Cain recalls getting a less-than-satisfactory grade on her first nursing exam.
“I remember crying, thinking I wouldn’t be a good nurse and worrying that maybe this wasn’t what God wanted me to do.” she says. “But you’ve got to push through those feelings. Anything worth having is worth working for, and nursing school isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.”
Cain has been applying her skills as a nursing assistant for the past three years at Bladen County Hospital. After Campbell, she’ll begin her career in her dream unit, working in Fayetteville as a labor and delivery nurse. Thomas has accepted a position at Johnston Health in Smithfield on the ortho-surgical floor, although she is looking into becoming a psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioner in the future.