Excelsior Graduates Share Milestones and a Career Path

Gina Brandolino (left) and Heather Reynolds (right)Two graduates of Excelsior’s Class of 2013 have more than a Bachelor of Science in nursing degree in common. Their friendship started at Clinton Community College after a brief meeting at a gas station. Today, Heather Reynolds and Gina Brandolino share life’s milestones and a career path.

Excelsior Life: Can you tell us about interest in nursing? Reynolds:  Growing up in a small town on Lake Champlain, I was always interested in the medical field. Both my mother and grandmother were nurses.

Brandolino: When I was younger, I lived with my grandparents in Burlington, VT. During my junior year in high school I moved to New York with my father. I always loved medicine and knew I wanted to pursue this as a career.

Gina and Heather photoExcelsior Life: Is it true that your friendship began at a gas station and later you realized you were in the same community college class?

Reynolds: Well, sort of. We were both from the same area and knew of each other. But as Gina will gladly tell you I am MUCH older, maybe a whole 4 years. We had no clue that we were both starting in the same nursing program at Clinton Community College.

The morning of the first day of class, we were both pumping gas and started talking. Once we realized we were in the same program, we drove together to class every day thereafter. Since then we have been friends. We studied together, car pooled, and spent free time together.

Gina and heather Excelsior Life: What do you do for a living? Do you both work together now?
Reynolds: Gina and I both worked at CVPH in Plattsburgh, NY in different departments. I am currently the clinical resource manager at Elizabethtown Community Hospital. My job includes utilization review, intake of sub acute rehab referrals, and supervisory duties of case management as part of the Quality Department.

We worked together at both the blood donor center and in home care for the public health department.  I was fortunate enough that Gina was my operating room nurse during both of my daughters c-section deliveries. We actually picked Gina up on our way to the hospital when our second daughter was born. She loves to tell people that she was the first to hold each of my children, after the doctor, of course!

Brandolino: As Heather mentioned, we worked together in a few different positions. Currently I work part-time at our local health department as the HIV Coordinator which includes HIV testing along with HIV,STI, and teen pregnancy prevention/education. I also have worked in labor and delivery for the past 10 years, now per diem. I also teach OB clinicals for two local community college nursing programs. I have enjoyed working in multiple areas of nursing.

Excelsior Life: What motivated you to earn a bachelor’s degree? How has your degree impacted your career?
Reynolds: I decided to pursue my BSN because I wanted to go further in my career. I value learning. I always take every opportunity to continue my knowledge which will make me valuable as nurse and employee. A BSN increases my knowledge base.

Brandolino: I was motivated to continue my education because I wanted more out of nursing.  Having each other helped significantly to start in the first place. It has given me the drive to pursue my goal of becoming a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. I started SUNY Stony Brook’s Pediatric Nurse Practitioner’s program this summer right after completing my BSN.

Excelsior Life: How did it feel to recently graduate together? Did each of you motivate the other? Have you shared other milestones together?

Reynolds: I don’t think I could have been as motivated and successful without Gina’s support! We were slightly competitive, joking about who got the higher grade and who spent more time studying. We kept each other on task and pushing forward to finish. We would formulate a plan and hold each other accountable to sticking to it! I am so happy we participated in graduation  together again.

Brandolino: Graduating together made the experience more special. We started our nursing career together, so it only made sense to continue together. I would say we are each a little competitive, but not towards each other. We were more of each other’s motivation. When we were feeling frustrated, it was great having someone there to push and pull at you.