EMCC grad enjoys rewarding career in nursing

Rayann and  Paula
Rayann and Paula McWilliam, Director of the Nursing Department at FPU
September 03, 2019


Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a series of EMCC On The Job stories we’ll bring you highlighting some of EMCC’s former students and graduates in their new jobs. From opening their own restaurants to coding for international finance companies, EMCC students have gone on to great things, all because they left here well prepared. As former EMCC student Omar Gonzalez, who now works in our Technology Services Department, said, “The instructors here were very influential. They gave me a glimpse of what my career could be and now I’m living it!”

When Rayann Gionet began her journey at Estrella Mountain Community College (EMCC), she had something most incoming community college students don’t already have: a Bachelor’s Degree.

The wife of a police officer got her bachelor’s in elementary education in 2010 from the University of Phoenix four years after having twins because “I thought I better get an education because god forbid, something happens to my husband, I’ve got these two babies to take care of,” she said. But it wasn’t the degree she really wanted.

“I wanted to do nursing, but I would have had to leave the house and I didn’t want to burden my parents with taking care of my twin babies,” she said. “So I went with education because I could get that degree online.”

After completing an internship, Rayann found out she was pregnant with her third child, so she put off teaching to stay home and raise her children. Feeling that their family was a little “uneven,” Rayann and her husband decided to have baby No. 4.

“But then I really needed to make some money because four kids are really expensive,” Rayann said.

So she opened a preschool/daycare that she ran for close to five years before getting burned out. The desire to become a nurse never waned and with her children in school, it was the perfect time for Rayann to retool. She enrolled at EMCC in the spring of 2016 needing only three “big science” classes before being eligible to apply for the MaricopaNursing program and Concurrent Enrollment Program (CEP).

The CEP allows students to pursue an Associate in Applied Science (AAS) in nursing through the MaricopaNursing program while pursuing their Bachelor’s in Science in Nursing (BSN) via a university partner. Rayann applied Aug. 2 and was accepted Aug. 25.

“It’s a highly competitive application process,” said Marcia Hernandez, EMCC Nursing Program Coordinator.

Students who are accepted into the CEP take physical classes at EMCC while taking online classes at the university of their choice. Rayann chose Franklin Pierce University (FPU). She received her AAS in December 2017 and her BSN the following March, earning the “Outstanding Student of the Year” award from FPU.

“That was really cool because my kids were so excited,” she said. “I think that really helped me get a job so quickly.”

Her impressive resume also surely played a part in Banner Health’s scooping her up less than two weeks after she earned her BSN. While attending FPU, Rayann was chosen for a unique research opportunity. The Director of the Nursing Department at FPU, Paula McWilliam, tapped Rayann to assist her with testing a new laryngoscope she’d invented with a pressure sensor on the end to prevent perforating the trachea when intubating a premature baby.

“Rayann's drive and determination made her an ideal candidate for the research opportunities Franklin Pierce University afforded her,” EMCC Clinical Nursing Professor Roni Collazo said.

As McWilliam’s research assistant, Rayann flew to the Geisel School of Medicine Laboratory at Dartmouth Medical School in New Hampshire where she participated in a research study, which included a roundtable discussion with the Medical Health Institute. It was there that Rayann suggested placing a camera on the end of the device and after unanimous agreement found herself researching cameras.

Rayann was also flown to Stanford University in California to do test intubations on Laerdal dolls, or manikins. She oversaw 144 intubations in 24 hours.

“We had every practitioner we could think of come through, anybody who could possibly need to intubate,” she said, adding it was important to get readings from people of different heights and sizes, as well as different levels of experience.

Rayann now works on a post-surgical floor at Banner Boswell Medical Center in Sun City, a position she finds very fulfilling.

“When you help somebody, they remember you forever,” she said. “They might be your fifth patient today or 20th patient this month, but you’re their one nurse. It’s a big deal to make sure they know you care, and when they vocalize that they appreciate you, it’s really rewarding.”

Rayann also helps future and current students as a CEP Scholar for FPU, attending informational sessions, CEP meetings, and career fairs. She shares her story, assuring wary students that they are capable of completing the albeit rigorous program, even with family and work obligations.

“I was lucky that I didn’t have to work while I went to school,” she said. “But a lot of my classmates did, so I use them as examples when talking to students.”

She cites several classmates who worked as sitters at hospitals during the night shift so they could study while their patients slept.

“They couldn’t sleep because they were watching their patients, but they could study, so they would study through the night, go to class in the morning, and then go home and sleep in the afternoon,” she said. “ It’s very difficult, but it’s doable.”

Part of her compensation for her CEP Scholar duties includes tuition for her master’s, which she is currently pursuing.

“I’m working on my master’s in education,” she said. “Eventually, I’d like to become an adjunct and teach online.”

To learn more about EMCC’s Nursing program, visit https://www.estrellamountain.edu/programs/nursing.

EMCC offers a variety of associate degrees and certificates and partners closely with Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, and University of Arizona, as well as more than 40 out-of-state, private, and online colleges and universities, for transfer programs. Classes can be taken in person, online, or in a hybrid format. To begin your journey, visit https://www.estrellamountain.edu/students/enrollment-steps.