CHESAPEAKE, Va. — A transplant to Hampton Roads, Angie Joaquin of Chesapeake moved from New York with the goal of going to nursing school.
Joaquin dedicated time to several careers, including as an executive assistant to broadcast TV industry leaders. However, her ambition started as a child, growing up with a grandmother who required care at home.
"I've always wanted to be in a position to help," she told 13News Now.
She recalled nurses coming to the house, teaching relatives how to do things like dress wounds, but they needed a translator.
"My aunt kind of said, 'Well, you know what she's saying, you do it,' and it didn't scare me. I just thought, 'This is really cool, the adults are asking me to do something.' I did it and I loved it," said Joaquin.
Time passed and fast forward to when her mom, who was diagnosed with cancer, wanted to spend her last stage of life at home.
Joaquin did as much as she could to help.
Her determination to become a hospice care nurse stuck from then until now at 58 years old.
Joaquin said that at 21, she was a single parent raising two kids in Brooklyn.
"And so, school and thinking about nursing at that time was not an option for me," said Joaquin.
She never let go of that dream. "It's my turn and now I get to live out my dream," she added.
Joaquin paved her path by first enrolling in the Patient Care Technician (PCT) program last year, a 16-week course out of Sentara College of Health and Sciences in Chesapeake.
Director of Continuing Education Tracie Johnson said the program trains entry-level health care professionals to work at the bedside and assist nurses.
"It really opens their eyes to see what it's all about and make sure they're going in the right direction as they pursue a higher level of education," said Johnson.
Joaquin found herself in class with many students half her age.
"We talked about therapeutic communication and things that related to life experiences," she said. "I had them ten-fold and they were looking at me like ... ‘How do you know all of this?’ I actually said, ‘I’m 58,’ and everyone said, ‘What?!’"
She also learned some lessons beyond classroom material.
"Not to give up. Don't be so hard on yourself. You're here to learn. Absorb that," Joaquin added.
Johnson said patient care technicians are in high demand, "They are the backbone of helping nursing staff on floor and supporting of staffing."
And that's exactly what Joaquin does now. She had a job as a nurse care partner at Sentara Leigh Hospital in Norfolk, by the time she finished the PCT course.
Joaquin is at a point in her career now where she is preparing to take the next step.
"Just take one step at a time, one day at a time and you'll get there. I'm here. And it's because of that," she said.
Joaquin is applying to multiple nursing schools and is seeking out scholarships to help fund her plans for future education.
She also received a $1,000 award after completing and passing her program at Sentara, thanks to a nonprofit group called Virginia Ready Initiative.