Bay College student Anna Hutchinson completed Bay College's Certified Nursing Assitant program just a few years ago. However, a statewide scholarship program implemented in response to COVID-19 allowed her to return to the college and take her nursing credentials to the next level.
Though she was born in North Carolina, Anna considers Manistique to be her hometown. She moved there at the age of 10 and graduated from Manistique High School in 2018.
When she graduated, Anna had planned to go to college right away. But it didn't take long for these plans to change - she ended up getting married instead.
"My boyfriend had proposed about a month after I graduated. I was going to Bethany College in West Virginia, and I had a long talk with him and my mom, and I decided I couldn't do it. I couldn't be 10 hours away from everybody," she said.
Anna's marriage took place in 2019. At the time, she said she took a few odd jobs, including a stint at Wendy's in Escanaba.
"Then, I saw that Bay had a certified nursing assistant program. I was tired of working in fast food, so I decided to take a leap of faith and start the CNA program," she said.
Though she had planned to pursue a degree in education at Bethany, Anna had long been interested in the nursing field, as well.
"My grandma was an RN for many, many years, and she was highly respected at Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital. When I was younger, people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up. That was one of my answers," she said.
In October 2019, Anna started Bay's CNA program; she was fully certified in Michigan that December. Shortly before she was certified, she began working at Pinecrest Medical Care Facility in Powers.
"It really worked out perfectly. After I got my CNA, I was on the floor, but before I got it, I was training with other CNAs," Anna said.
Once she got her certification, Anna started working at Pinecrest full-time. However, her duties in this role would soon become more complicated due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It didn't really affect us directly in the beginning. We didn't have our first positive COVID test until June 2020, and it was a staff member," she said.
After the facility saw its first COVID case, the situation began to escalate rapidly.
"It seemed like we were getting notifications about other COVID-positive staff members every other week. Around December of 2020, we had our first COVID-positive resident and it just wreaked havoc in our facility," Anna said.
At this point, Anna heard about Michigan's Futures for Frontliners program. This program provided free community college tuition to essential workers without degrees who worked throughout the shutdown. Once she learned that she was eligible, Anna decided to go back to Bay for pre-nursing.
"It worked out great for me, because I didn't have a degree - I only had my CNA certification," she said.
Anna returned to Bay at the start of the fall 2021 semester. So far, she said her classes have been going well and that her instructors have been helpful and accommodating.
She especially appreciated her teachers' effort to help her stay on track after she was diagnosed with COVID-19 in late September.
"All of my teachers were really on top of making sure I had everything I needed when I was quarantined," Anna said.
Along with this, Anna applauded Bay's willingness to offer mental health resources, noting that this subject is near and dear to her.
"It's nice to know that Bay actually cares about how you're doing, and that they have resources to back it up," she said.
While taking classes at Bay, Anna has been able to continue working full-time at Pinecrest.
"There's a very open line of communications on what days I can and can't work, and I'm still able to work and get all my class work done," she said.
Anna expects to graduate from Bay at the end of the winter 2024 semester. Though this is still years away, she has already begun to make plans for her future.
"After I get my RN, I've been looking at getting a job at either Dickinson County Healthcare System or the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center," she said.