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Engineer leaves his career for nursing

Matt Ward seemingly had everything in line.

He had a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a master’s degree in project management, both of which led to a successful career in project management.

“I had a very good career doing what I was doing,” Ward said. “But I wasn’t happy.”

As it happened, life was about to show Ward what would make him happy.

Ward’s wife, Jennifer, is a nurse practitioner. When her stepfather was diagnosed with cancer, Jennifer was right there for all his needs.

“Just watching the compassion she had for him and how she fought for him,” Ward said. “In seeing all of that, I was drawn to nursing. It made me want to do that.”

In 2007, Ward left his job and went back to school — enrolling in Tidewater Community College’s nursing program.

The transition was taxing.

“You get so used to your daily grind, having that 8 to 5,” Ward said. “I was used to having my evenings off and my weekends off to spend with my family. All of the sudden, I’ve got class, homework and reading to do. It was kind of chaotic at first; it was sort of a crash course in learning that time management. It was tough getting used to that schedule. It was tough for me and for my family.”

But Ward persevered, and became a leader in Tidewater’s nursing program. He helped re-charter the school’s Student Nursing Association, and served as its president. Ward also served as tutor in anatomy and physiology, which is ironic because, he said, those specific classes were obstacles he had to overcome in pursuing a degree in nursing.

“I just dreaded them,” he said.

Over the course of 22 months, Ward said, he was impressed with Tidewater’s nursing program.

“The faculty was great, my classes were great,” Ward said. “I feel more ready and better prepared to take my exam and go out into the field of nursing that I thought would be. My time at TCC was great.”

Upon his graduation last week from the program, Ward already had a job working in the critical care unit of Chesapeake Regional Medical Center.

Critical care, Ward explained, is suited for his personality.

“I’m a math and science guy,” he said. “I like to understand something all the way down to the smallest level, to the molecule. With critical care, you have a smaller patient load, but the patients are more complex and require that understanding.”

One would think that having just completed the nursing program, Ward would want to relax. Not so.

He already is planning on returning to the classroom again to pursue another bachelor’s and master’s degree, but this time in nursing.

“This is what I want to do,” he said. “I’m just ready to get started.”