Former TSC instructor switches gears to nursing career

Former TSC Instructor Maria del Carmen Reyes switched gears and returned to the classroom as a nursing student.

From instructor to registered nursing student, Maria Reyes’ role has changed at Texas Southmost College, but one thing remains steadfast – it’s a family affair.

The 31-year-old first came to TSC in 2013 as a Medical Office Management instructor with a bachelor’s degree in Healthcare Administration and as a former medical assistant.

In 2017, she earned a certificate as a professional coder from the American Academy of Professional Coders.

“TSC allowed me to put my education to good use,” said the Brownsville native. “I enjoyed my time as an instructor and loved my students and watching them grow and learn, but deep down inside, I knew my calling was to be a nurse.”

As an instructor at TSC, Reyes joined her husband, Anatomy and Physiology Instructor Ruben Reyes, and her mother, Medical Laboratory Technology Instructor Maria del Carmen Rodriguez, at the college.

“TSC quickly became my family, and I literally have family at the college,” said Reyes. “TSC has given us more than careers, it’s given us a way of life and a way to support our families.”

Reyes said having grown up around the health care industry with her parents and working in clinics prior to her teaching stint, it was the one-on-one patient care that she missed the most as an instructor.

With a strong support group at TSC and within her family, she decided to enroll in TSC’s Associate Degree Nursing program when it opened in fall 2018, becoming a member of the program’s first cohort.

“Unfortunately, I had to stop teaching,” said Reyes. “But my department and colleagues were so supportive of my decision and have done nothing but encourage me to keep growing. That means a lot.”

Reyes added that her husband, parents and in-laws have provided a lot of support when it comes to juggling school and a toddler.

She expects to graduate with an associate degree in May 2021 and says her transition from instructor to student has been a positive one.

“I’ve had the best experience so far. The institution really put a great team together for the nursing program,” said Reyes. “They are always looking out for our best interest and are dedicated to seeing us succeed.”

However, being a nursing student during the COVID-19 pandemic has not been without its challenges, but Reyes said even then her instructors have worked hard to make remote learning productive.

“The nursing program is demanding in itself,” she said. “So the shift to remote learning has been hard and requires us to get creative.”

So far Reyes and her classmates have created virtual study sessions outside of class time and have found new ways of practicing their hands-on skills.

“We’ve been using tomatoes and fruits and other vegetables to practice our intravenous skills,” she said. “Fortunately, at the beginning of the program we purchased skills packs that included medicine viles, syringes and needles so we can continue to practice.”

As a nursing student dedicated to the medical field, Reyes said it has been difficult watching the pandemic play out and not be on the frontlines helping patients and other fellow nurses.

“I know personally I want to jump in and help, but I also know I don’t have all of the skills I need yet,” she said. “So I’ll continue learning, continue my education toward becoming a registered nurse and the best medical professional I can be for myself and my patients.”

For more information, visit TSC’s Associate Degree Nursing program.