For many graduates of Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College in Harlan, a career in healthcare is a vocation. For 19-year-old Jared Creech, it is also a family tradition.
A 2020 graduate of Harlan County High School, Jared completed approximately 30 dual-credit hours from Southeast and has been accepted into the college’s nursing program on the Cumberland Campus this fall.
“I have always been the type to want to help people,” Jared said. “As you get older, you have to talk about what you want to do, and mom suggested that since I like to help people, this would be a good career.”
In 2010, his mother, Crystal, completed Southeast’s licensed practical nurse (LPN) program, enrolling in night and weekend classes while she worked full time at an insurance company. Not only was Jared encouraged by his mother’s achievements, he was also influenced by his paternal grandmother who retired from a long career in healthcare in 2019.
Roots established in 1980
Sandy Turner graduated from Southeast’s first class of registered nurses in 1980, serving over her career at local hospitals, hospices, clinics and nursing home care in various positions, from emergency nurse to nursing management. The second oldest of eight children, Sandy was not the only sibling to pursue healthcare. Two of her sisters went on to become nurses, and all five of her sisters worked in allied health fields.
While Jared will enter the program with a head start on his college coursework, Sandy had a much different experience. She dropped out of high school to get married at 17. She later obtained her GED. When she was 19, she welcomed a son, Jared’s father, Stacy, who now works as a coal miner. When her son was still a toddler, she was accepted into Southeast’s nursing program.
An experience that led to a career
Sandy had hoped to pursue nursing since she was a young child and her grandmother was admitted to a local hospital. Although she says the nursing staff gave her grandmother adequate care, the family did not fare as well.
“They gave no attention to us,” she said. “My mother slept in the only chair, and I slept on tile floor with no blanket. I knew there had to be a better way, so I thought, ‘I will be a nurse and make things better.’”
Once Sandy entered the nursing program, she went straight through, attending classes in the summer as well as the fall and spring. She says that as members of the inaugural class, she and her classmates endured extra pressure. Had they not performed well, the college would not have received accreditation.
Regarding her success, she credits her mother’s support in helping her care for her young child, as well as the mentors she had at Southeast. Retired professor Milton Borntrager was “very supportive and kind,” she says.
As she reflects on her long and fulfilling career, Sandy says that she would give young people considering healthcare two pieces of advice: Don’t go into it for the paycheck, and keep a journal.
“It has to be a calling. I would have done it for free,” she said. “But I wish I had kept a diary to write down my feelings. That is my one regret. I have so many stories, but now my memory is fading.”
When asked whether the COVID-19 crisis has given her pause regarding Jared’s future, she admits it worried her at first, but then she remembered her own early challenges.
“When I first went in, we were dealing with the AIDS virus. I remember working on patients for years with no gloves. It was the norm back then. Now there are stricter guidelines with PPE,” she said. “Jared is conscientious enough to do what is important.”
Of her grandson, Sandy could not be prouder, calling him “an old soul with a heart of gold.”
“You can’t teach compassion and integrity,” she said. “Jared will make a fine nurse because he has what it takes, the smarts and the heart.”