By Judy Bass
No one could be a more eloquent and persuasive ambassador for the high school-level Health Assisting and Adult Postgraduate Practical Nursing programs at Blue Hills Regional Technical School in Canton than Michelle McMahon, who had a rewarding and fruitful connection with the school spanning nearly two decades.
Today, 27 years after she graduated from Blue Hills, where she studied what was then called Health Services, McMahon still lauds the school for “exposing her to excellent professional role models,” helping her develop a strong professional work ethic that has brought her to the pinnacle of her field, encouraging her to see the connection between what she learned in the classroom and real-life applications of that knowledge, and giving her valuable hands-on job experience while she was a high school student.
McMahon, 45, graduated from Blue Hills in 1986. Years later, she went back to teach in what is currently called Health Assisting and eventually became a teacher in the Practical Nursing program.
Now an associate professor of nursing at Curry College in Milton, just a stone’s throw down Route 138 from Blue Hills, McMahon is having an exceptional career as a nurse and teacher, combining both pursuits seamlessly along with further education for herself to achieve those worthwhile aims.
McMahon, a Holbrook native and resident who is married with two children, said recently that she wanted to be a nurse since childhood, when her father was hospitalized and she had a chance to observe dedicated nurses performing their duties. From then on, her goal, she said, was to blend what she believed to be the best of both career worlds – nursing and teaching.
Asked if Blue Hills prepared her adequately for the rigors of nursing, McMahon replied emphatically, “Absolutely, without a doubt.”
Not only did the school give her useful exposure to what she would eventually be learning in more depth in college, but she was also able to get basic knowledge under her belt in areas like child development, medical office training, microbiology, anatomy, and physiology. In addition, McMahon got on-the-job experience in her senior year through a co-op position at a local nursing home, where she was a full-time certified nursing assistant every other week.
She doesn’t only credit Blue Hills with teaching her the key concepts and techniques of nursing. She noted that she was expected to behave in a mature and responsible way, as were all the other students. That work ethic and poised demeanor have been significant pluses to her throughout the years that followed.
McMahon next embarked upon a path that has brought her to where she is today, first by earning her baccalaureate and master’s degrees in nursing at Salem State University. Along the way, she worked at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, and eventually felt an impetus to teach nursing students.
McMahon secured a part-time position at Blue Hills instructing high school students in the Health Assisting program, and started taking education courses herself. Those developments led her to have a teaching job at Blue Hills from 1995 to 2008 in the Practical Nursing program, an intensive 10-month day course.
McMahon was not finished with her own education and evolving career path. She earned her Doctorate of Philosophy in Nursing from UMass-Dartmouth, and is now an associate professor of nursing at Curry College, where she was hired in 2008.
She credits the support at home that she has received from her husband and children with being instrumental in helping her attain all these goals. “It’s true role-modeling about how anything is achievable,” McMahon said of her own life and professional choices. “I think it’s been a good message sent. I hope my children [both are students at Archbishop Williams High School in Braintree] value education like I do.”
Musing out loud about what she feels is the most vital aspect of what she does, McMahon said, “I contribute [shaping] the future generation of nurses.” She tries to instill the core fundamentals of nursing and patient care in them: compassion, respect, critical thinking, problem-solving, the importance of making patients active participants in their own care, and the need to be lifelong learners who are not afraid to enhance their existing knowledge throughout their career.
Reflecting on her success, McMahon, who plans to remain in academia long-term, said, “I’ve made the right career choices for me. To be a nurse-educator is a great profession. I’m very happy with what I do.”
The Practical Nursing Program at Blue Hills Regional (Postsecondary Programs Division) offers a rigorous educational experience of theory and clinical practice which will prepare graduates to take the NCLEX-PN (National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nursing) through the State Board of Registration in Nursing. The faculty provides an exceptional learning environment and the support services needed to help students succeed. For more information on the program, such as Admissions and Tuition, visit www.bluehills.org and click on the Practical Nursing tab on the home page. Interested parties can also contact Admissions and Financial Aid Director Marybeth Joyce at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 781-828-5800 x231 or x229.