Serving heart leads RN student to career in hospice

A photo of Melva Thomas

Nursing requires a compassionate attitude, and Melva Thomas provides an extra level of care as a hospice nurse to preserve her patients’ dignity and quality of life. Thomas has worked in hospice care for 18 years, beginning as a certified nursing assistant. She currently works for Summit Hospice in Searcy as a licensed practical nurse.

“Nurses must be very caring and compassionate. A lot of students go into nursing with the idea that they are going to help people get better and go home, but I am there for patients at the end of their lives. It’s very rewarding work because you become part of their family. It’s very special to share that moment with them at the end of their life,” Thomas said.

Thomas grew up in Carlsbad, N.M. and moved to Searcy in October 1998. After working for years as a CNA, she decided she wanted to take her career to the next level.

“I cared for my mother before she passed away from liver cirrhosis, and that’s what inspired me to become a nurse,” she said.

A friend told her about the nursing program at the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville, and she decided to enroll. She graduated from the practical nursing program at UACCB in July 2016 and is currently enrolled in the registered nursing program. Thomas said she anticipates graduating from the RN program this December and plans to continue working as a hospice nurse.

“Hospice has always been something I’ve wanted to do. My grandmother had pancreatic cancer and received hospice services. It was a very good experience, and I wanted to provide that kind of care to others,” Thomas said.

Thomas is a mother of two – a daughter, 22, and a son, 14. “They are my world,” she said.

Thomas said she enjoys the structure of the nursing program at UACCB. “Having been through the PN program, I was prepared for the RN program. I was familiar with the format. I like the structure of the program because you always know when the exams and lectures will be and what material you will be focusing on. I love Ms. Candler. She gives very good examples of how to apply the material being taught,” she said.

As a nontraditional student, Thomas said she encourages her younger classmates to pursue their education early in life.

“I tell them to do it now while they’re young. The transition into college is so much easier if you do it right after high school. It’s always a good idea to continue your education,” she said.

Check out Melva's video interview on Facebook.