Mother, daughter earn RN degrees

On April 23, mother and daughter Tammy Carper, left, and Katie Gibb, will graduate from the RN program at Fairmont State College. The duo spent the last three years attending the part-time nursing program while working full-time jobs and tending to family. Photo courtesy of Katie Gibb

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

Mothers and daughters have always had a special bond. Daughters look up to and want to be like their mothers, and mothers strive to be good role models and support their daughters.

Through the years, the dynamics of mother/daughter relationships have grown to include friends, co-workers and even classmates.

For the past three years, Tammy Carper, of Woodrow, and her daughter, Katie Gibb, of Marlinton, have added classmates to their relationship as they pursued their Registered Nurse degrees at Fairmont State College.

Both have been in the medical field for years – Carper is a medical assistant at the pulmonology clinic at Pocahontas Memorial Hospital and Gibb is an LPN at PMH – but they always wanted to go one step further and become RNs.

The family moved from Charleston to Pocahontas County in 2008, and Carper vowed once both of her daughters – Katie and Hannah – were through high school, she would pursue her degree.

It just so happened that Gibb was looking to do the same, so the two signed up for the program at FSU.

“We looked at part-time programs in several places,” Carper said. “Things just wouldn’t work out because we both had to work. We found the Fairmont part-time weekend program, where you just have to go every other weekend. It takes longer, but we’re finally getting there.”

“I thought, ‘You know what, I’m dragging Mom with me,’” Gibb said, laughing. “She’s been wanting to do this since she was little, and so have I.

“I said, ‘You know what, the time has come; we might as well go ahead and do it.’”

The mother and daughter found a way to balance family, career and school, while also dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s been a rough road,” Gibb said. “Everyone in the nursing programs has been through a lot. I started a couple days post-op from gall bladder surgery, and then I found out I was pregnant in March of 2019. In the middle of the spring semester, I thought about quitting, but I said, ‘No, I have to do this. We have to do it.’”

Gibb not only did it, she managed to become a mother and return to class in record time. 

The classmates go to Fairmont on Friday and have classes and clinicals Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Gibb attended clinicals on a Sunday, had her baby boy, Christopher, on Monday and returned to class the following Friday.

“Didn’t miss any days in the program,” Gibb said proudly.

“Her husband [Timmy Gibb] came to the hotel with us and kept the baby,” Carper said.

As if that wasn’t enough stress, the mother and daughter also had to deal with the pandemic, which closed down in-person learning for awhile. They were able to continue virtually, but it was difficult with poor Internet speeds and not being able to see patients in person.

“My Internet is horrible,” Carper said. “We live on Woodrow, and it’s terrible. I would have to go to Katie’s house to take exams because her Internet is a little bit better. We would arrange for a babysitter, then go into separate rooms and take the exams.”

Fortunately in-person classes and clinicals reopened so they could continue their work at FSU as well as at United Hospital Center, Ruby Memorial and MonGeneral.

The mother/daughter team persevered and, on April 24, they will attend their graduation ceremony. It won’t be a typical nursing graduation due to the pandemic, but it will be streamed virtually for family to “attend.”

“We can’t have a separate pinning ceremony like nurses usually have,” Carper said. “The pinning ceremony will be part of the graduation ceremony. We can only have two guests.”

With the end in sight, the Carper and Gibb are excited to put their degrees to work.

Earning her RN has been a lifelong dream for Carper.

“I had obstacles when I first started out,” she said. “I lost grants and back then, it wasn’t so easy to find money to go to school. My medical assistant’s was provided to me while I was in high school. I graduated from my two-year medical assistant program the same time I graduated high school.”

Being able to work directly after high school in the medical field was great for Carper. She got a job at a pediatrician’s office and chose that over going on the Alderson Broaddus College [now University].

“I was offered a really good job with a pediatrician, so I thought maybe it’s a sign,” she said. “I was going to wait a little bit longer, then my husband [Howard] came along, and babies came along.”

Possibly pulling inspiration from her mother, Gibb said she knew from the age of 10 or 11 that she wanted to be a nurse. She received her LPN from New River Career and Technical College.

“I like the fact that you can be a counselor; you can be a chef,” she said of her many hats as an LPN. “Like up at the hospital, now, I work nightshift, and you take on many roles being a nurse. Like being able to hold their hand. You can pray with the patients. You can just be there for their most trying time in their life because with COVID, they can’t have any visitors, and that makes it so hard on their mental health.”

While she was happy with her career, Gibb said she wanted to become an RN because it would add to her responsibilities and allow her to do more for the patients.

“There are only a few differences between an LPN and RN,” she said. “LPN kind of assists an RN. They can do the IVs. With an RN, they can do the admission. They do the main assessment of the patient when they first come in. They are the main person getting blood, and they have a little bit larger scope of practice than an LPN does.”

Gibb is looking forward to taking her new skills back to PMH to continue her work there.

For Carper, her RN degree will open doors to not only help patients, but educate them, as well.

“I’ve always pulled toward the medical field,” Carper said. “Where I worked mostly in primary care, I was exposed to a lot of different things. I really love patient teaching, and that’s an RN’s job.”

Carper has a passion for spreading awareness to patients and the community about diabetes, a disease that both her parents have.

“We have a high incidence of diabetes in our state, and Pocahontas County has the highest incidence of amputation as a complication from diabetes than any other county in our state,” she said. “That’s what motivated me in the beginning, because seeing the effects of diabetes is heartbreaking.”

“Our diabetes educator at the hospital is ready to retire, and we don’t have an in-patient diabetes educator, so I told Mom, ‘Get on that,’” Gibb said, laughing. “We need one at the hospital. A lot of patients are newly diagnosed. There’s a lot of teaching involved. I told her, ‘You should do it for our county.’”

Carper said she would like to be the diabetes educator and along with teaching patients about the disease, she would help monitor their levels to make sure they keep up on medication and their diets.

One of the reasons the Carpers moved to Pocahontas County was to be closer to family. Carper was born in the county. She is a daughter of Ray and Barbara Mann, of Huntersville. 

“I was born here,” she said. “We moved away when I was five. My dad was a coal miner, and he followed the coal mines away from here. Then they retired and became sick. They both ended up with diabetes. My mother is losing her sight – not to diabetes – but to macular degeneration. They just needed extra support so we came here.”

Being close to her parents and able to check on them has been a godsend for Carper.

“They’re wonderful,” she said. “I’m blessed to still have both of them.”

The new bond between Carper and Gibb has been a blessing, as well.

It will continue to strengthen as they enjoy the challenges of their newly gained degrees, and the joys of a new baby in the family.

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