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Weathering a career change to nursing

In Alabama, snow doesn’t come often. When a slim chance even existed during his childhood, Baptist DeSoto ICU Nurse Manager Rob Smith recalls exactly how he spent time.

“I’ve always wanted to be a weather man. When there was a chance of snow, my grandpa and I would sit up and look for snowflakes and listen to the weather man on the television.”

While the snow may not have fallen, his dreams of becoming a meteorologist certainly did grow to a reality. When Mississippi State began a broadcast meteorology program, Rob was one of four pioneers to enter in 1991 and graduate from the program in 1995. He began his career with the CBS affiliate in Columbus, Mississippi, eventually accepting a position in Santa Barbara, California. After three years, he was recruited back to Columbus to join one of the first morning shows. “I loved it.”

Eventually, he began seriously considering a change. With the fast-moving technologies that changed the face of American T.V., even nationally recognized meteorologists faced downsizing and layoffs.

As a young man, only one other profession interested him. “I thought I could be a doctor.” Given the time and expense required for medical school, the path didn’t seem practical for a mid-career professional with a family. Another idea surfaced one day while Rob was talking to anesthesiologist friend. “He said I could pretty much do what he did as a nurse. I knew nothing about nursing.”

In 2010, Rob enrolled in Mississippi University for Women to work on a BSN in nursing. For someone who aced his ACT years prior with a 36 and held a technical degree already, he found nursing nonetheless to be difficult. “It wasn’t the complexity, it was the volume. We are trained to think a certain way and prepared to be a safe nurse.”

In 2012, Rob began working at Baptist as an intern. Today, he manages a team of 120 nurses and providers. He views his work as multidimensional and ongoing. “We see families and patients at their worst. Even in a perfect environment—perfectly staffed—our work is never done. Our role is to educate and assist people to achieve the best health. Even when we’ve done all of our required care, we wish we just had more time to sit down, visit and talk with our patients.”

Making a career change is never easy but Rob takes it all in stride, especially with all the benefits nursing offers. “You’ll always have a job. No matter where you are in the country or world, you are needed. And there are a million variations to this work, enough to inspire you to feel fulfilled at the end of the day.”

Never standing still, Rob is working on masters and his role with Baptist will continue to evolve with his studies. But he knows one thing for sure. “My niche is critical care.”