April 27, 2021

“If you had told me six years ago you will be a great nurse someday, I wouldn’t have believed it.  I never thought I would be anything more than a housewife.  But things change.”

Nursing presented itself as an unlikely career for Rebekah Greason when life presented no other option. Her husband was diagnosed with cancer, and Greason became his de facto nurse.

“I administered medications, I flushed IV lines, I took his blood pressure and temperature and learned how to change sheets with a patient in the bed,” said Greason, 41. “He had feeding tubes for a while. I learned about every medication he was on. I cared for him.”

Her husband was diagnosed with leukemia in 2015 and was hospitalized 10 times in two years before dying from the disease in 2017. Two years later, Greason enrolled at Great Bay Community College, where she is studying to become a nurse.

“If you had told me six years ago, ‘Rebekah, you will be a great nurse someday,’ I wouldn’t have believed it,” she said. “I never thought I would be anything more than a housewife. But things changed.”

Greason was pregnant with their second child when her husband became ill. Her kids are now 10 and 5.

“I wanted to provide for my children and my family, so I decided to go back to school,” she said.

She chose nursing because she knew she could do it, and she felt both affinity for and camaraderie with the nurses who cared for her husband at Mass General Hospital in Boston. She kept up a brave face for her husband but confided her feelings and fears to the nurses. “I needed him to believe he was going to make it,” she said. “The nurses were the only ones I could say to, ‘This doesn’t look good,’ or ‘I don’t know what to do.’ They were my family. I was at the hospital every single day my husband was there.”

She chose to study at Great Bay because it is affordable and flexible, and because the nursing program is top notch. “It’s a great program and it costs a lot less than a university,” she said.

Greason learned about Great Bay’s nursing program while her husband was a patient at Northeast Rehabilitation Hospital at Pease in Portsmouth. The nurses there raved about the preparation of Great Bay nursing students. “They said it was a fantastic program. If these nurses are telling me it’s a great program and that the students come out well-prepared, I thought I should check it out.”

After working as a stay-at-home mom for 10 years, Greason said getting herself and her kids ready for school at 8 a.m. is always a juggle and never easy. But she has a new partner in her life now, and Great Bay offers a strong and supportive network. Despite the challenges of remote learning, the college has maintained its community, she said. Greason works as a tutor and mentor to other students, which helps reinforce one-on-one connections, even through Zoom.

She will graduate in two years and is eager to begin a career she already knows well. “I have no illusions what nursing is. It’s a messy job,” she said. “It’s been a tough road, but I know my husband is looking down on me. He is proud of me and I know he would want me to move forward and live my life. He loved me so much.”