This is one in an occasional series of profiles of Grossmont and Cuyamaca College students who exemplify student success.
Grossmont College was Tamara McMillan’s destiny. It just took her a little while to get here.
Born and raised in Pensacola, Florida, McMillan was a standout discus thrower in high school, a national champion in the weight throw at Cowley County Junior College in Arkansas City, Kansas, and an Academic All American athlete at San Diego State University.
A few years after graduating from SDSU, McMillan enrolled at Grossmont College in the fall of 2013 to pursue her longtime dream of becoming a nurse.
“Being a nurse is something I really want to do,” McMillan said. “It is my calling.”
McMillan’s odyssey began while she was attending W. J. Woodman High School in the Gulf city of Pensacola. The campus featured a pre-nursing program and McMillan eagerly took part, gravitating to volunteer work in hospitals and helping out in medical clinics.
Her ambitions took a turn, though, when a friend convinced McMillan to try out for the track and field team. McMillan found she had a knack for the shot put and discus, and she would rank in the top 5 among Florida prep discus throwers before earning her diploma. From there, McMillan enrolled at Cowley College, about 45 minutes south of Wichita, where she and a friend were recruited into that school’s athletic program.
“It was culture shock,” McMillan said. “From the people to the weather, to being so far away from home to being in college, to seeing deer two feet in front of you to the snow, it was very different from anything I had known.”
But she didn’t disappoint. McMillan was the weight throw national champion the National Junior College Athletic Association’s National Indoor Championships and an NJCAA All-American in the hammer throw during the outdoor campaign. She also helped lead the Lady Tigers to a third-place finish at the indoor and outdoor national championships.
McMillan suddenly found herself being recruited heavily by four-year universities around the country. She chose San Diego State, where she shined both on the field and in the classroom.
McMillan graduated from SDSU in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and Africana studies and landed a job as an emergency dispatcher. But aspirations of becoming a registered nurse never died. McMillan took an anatomy course at Cuyamaca College, and she was accepted into Grossmont College’s Registered Nursing Program in the spring of 2013.
McMillan, now 27, is picking up several fans along the way.
“Tamara is an excellent student and she has such a professional attitude,” said Grossmont College nursing Professor Angela Ngo. “She puts a premium on collaboration and is focused on quality patient outcomes. We are honored and fortunate to have her here as a nursing student.”
McMillan, an Osher scholar, already has completed clinical work at Kaiser, Sharp Grossmont, Scripps La Jolla and Rady Children’s Hospital. She hopes to graduate with an associate’s degree in registered nursing in the spring of 2015, work for a year or two as an emergency room nurse, and then head back to school to earn a master’s degree in nursing.
She has a bright future ahead of her. Nurses currently account for the largest group of licensed health care professionals in the country. By 2020, there will be 1.2 million job openings for registered nurses, including 470,000 openings for RNs with associate degrees, according to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce. And there will be 370,000 job openings for licensed practical nurses and licensed vocational nurses – 134,000 of which will be for LPNs and LVNs with associate degrees.
“Coming to Grossmont College was the best thing I did,” McMillan said. “The classes are small and we have an excellent simulation lab, incredible resources, and unbelievable clinical opportunities. It’s just a great school. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
“I wouldn’t trade my path for anything.”