Pandemic or not, woman determined to save her children and patients as a nurse

Ranger College / Special to the Bulletin
Ranger College instructor Leslie Greaves helps Level 1 student Angel Buffington go over some information in one of the nursing books prior to a class. As part of Ranger College’s Associate of Nursing program, students can learn the skills to join the medical field.

At the age of 26, Angel Buffington of Brownwood admittedly has had a tough road getting to this point in her life.

A teen mom.

A high school dropout.

Moving to a new state.

Losing a parent to cancer.

Still, the mother of four isn’t about to let her children see her give up. In fact, if anything, she’s determined to show them they can still achieve whatever goal they want if they are determined enough. Thanks to the Ranger College Associate of Science Nursing Program, she’s well on her way to do that – as well as doing her part to, one day soon, help pay forward a kindness her family was shown.

Originally from Phoenix, Arizona, Buffington said became pregnant as a teenager and dropped out of school. From there, life threw her several more curves including relocating from her home to Brownwood and her father being diagnosed with cancer.

Three children later, she said her journey – as well as the message that journey sent to her children – led her to the decision to become a registered nurse.

“I dropped out of high school and had a kid,” she said. “After that, I just never went back (to school). Then, I had three more children and I didn’t want them to think what I had done was the right thing. I just wanted to show them that it wasn’t OK to drop out, and even though I have had some pretty rough patches in my life, that I went on and did what I wanted to do.”

“This is really to show my children that there is a chance for them to do what they want,” said Buffington, who is among the first-year students enrolled in the Ranger College Associate Degree in Nursing program.

The decision to pursue a nursing degree was inspired by the care she saw her father, the late James Duffy of Brownwood, receive during his battle after she moved to Texas about 10 years ago.

“My dad had to take chemo,” she said. “I was always up at the hospital with him during the weekends, and just watching the nurses and how they took care of him. I was always impressed with how compassionate they were to him, and how, even though he wasn’t feeling good, they could still get a smile on his face. That always stuck with me.”

So, when the decision was made to set an example for her children’s future, nursing was an easy choice.

“I want to be able to do that for someone,” she said. “I’d like to be able to help those who are going through a tough time. The impact those nurses had on my father, and myself, was something I would like to be able to do.”

Sophomore Kensli Rockafellow agreed, saying her desire to become a nurse was more about helping others than getting a job in the medical field.

“I have always wanted to be a nurse,” the Zephyr High School graduate said. “My aunt is a nurse and I saw how she helped people when they needed it, and I knew that it was something I wanted to do, too.”

Rockafellow, who is in her final semester at RC, is scheduled to graduate in December. From there, she will take the national licensure examination to become a registered nurse, and hopefully, begin helping area residents through a position with Brownwood Regional Medical Center.

The process to becoming a nurse has been one she has enjoyed.

“I won’t lie and say it was easy,” she said. “There are times you will question yourself because it can be tough, but it’s worth it to me. It’s been tough but, at the same time, it has been very rewarding, even with the adjustments we have had to make due to the pandemic. It’s something I love doing.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a few curves at the students and nursing faculty since March. The Ranger College ADN faculty have complied with state and national recommendations to reduce the spread of illness, such as limiting the size of face-to-face classes, provide online instruction with weekly Zoom meetings to reinforce content, and rotate students in smaller groups through the college’s state-of-the-art simulation training center.

The online classes have been one of the bigger changes, Rockafellow said. The Zoom meetings, although they allow students to attend some classes from home, are a challenge.

“Personally, I would prefer the face-to-face classes because it is better for me,” she said. “Sometimes, I forget to ask questions when I’m doing a Zoom class. When you are in the class, you can see what everyone else is doing, and hear the questions they ask.”

But the opportunity to learn at home is nice, too.

“There are some benefits to it,” she said.

Ranger College Dean of Nursing and Director of AND Dr. Sandra Lee said the college has been able to adjust its schedule to the Centers for Disease Control’s social distancing guidelines thanks, in part, to a waiver granted by Governor Abbot On March 21, 2020, that allows students in their final year of nursing school to meet clinical objectives by exceeding the usual 50% limit on high fidelity patient simulation experiences.

Ranger College, which has offered an Associate Degree in Nursing program since 2011, also has greatly emphasized clinical simulation learning during the Covid19 pandemic. The program, which is available at the Brown County Campus, enables students - typically in groups of three or four - to work on a patient-like manikins which can be programed to demonstrate various symptoms of physiological distress. The nursing faculty members monitor the manikins and the students’ care from a control room out of the students’ view. The simulators enable students to respond to a patients’ needs while being observed.

“It is a great tool for us,” ADN instructor Vicki Calfa said. “From here (the control room), we can simulate things for the students to recognize and treat. They (the students) get the chance to see if what they are doing is helping and, if not, the conditions continue to get worse until they find a way to get it under control. It’s a nice way to learn to deal with real-life situations.”

Calfa said the sessions for each group of nurses can be recorded from various camera angles so it can be shown to the class, as well as the other students, as a way to visually show the students in what areas they excelled and areas of needed improvement.

“We have the ability to record them as they work through things and then show it to the class, as a whole, so they can see what they are doing right and what they need to do better,” she said.

Despite the adaptations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Lee said she feels each student going through the ADN, as well as the college’s other nursing programs, is receiving the instruction they will need to become outstanding nurses.

“We have had to adapt a little because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Lee. “But I think our students and faculty have done very well with the changes. Our goal is, as it always has been, is to provide the students with the best education possible, and to give them the tools and skills they will need to go out and have a great career and to help others.”

Nurse candidates must meet several prerequisites prior to being accepted into the program, including several general educational classes. For more information about the Ranger College Associate Degree in Nursing Program contact Lee or the Brown County Campus academic advisor Alta Yeats at (325) 203-5011.