A recent study by Indeed revealed that U.S. workers are making dramatic career shifts, and nearly 88 percent of those who take the leap say they are happier after making their move. Mary Brightwell's career change began at age 46 when she transitioned from grocery store bookkeeper to wound care nurse and clinical manager. Here's her story.
by Mary Brightwell Tuttle, BSN, RN, WCC
It took over two decades, but I finally found my calling. Or perhaps I should say my calling found me. My name is Mary Brightwell Tuttle and I’m the clinical manager of the Placentia-Linda Hospital Center for Wound Care.
After spending 20 years working as a bookkeeper in a grocery store, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to return to school. My only daughter had just turned 18 and I was 46. It was the ideal time to do what I really wanted to do. I knew I wanted to become a nurse and help people.
My mother had suffered from breast cancer several years earlier and I was one of her primary caregivers. The nurses involved in her care made such a positive impact on the quality of her life and their dedication and compassion made a huge impact on me, too. I thought to myself, “I would love to be able to make such a difference in other peoples’ lives.”
When I began school, the plan was for oncology nursing to be my specialty. I wanted to be like the nurses that were there for my mom. While in school, I needed volunteer hours. A good friend of mine connected me to the USC Verdugo Hills Hospital wound clinic, and the rest is history. I enjoyed my time there, seeing the same patients week after week, and watching their wounds heal. I was able to really get to know them. The quality of their lives greatly improved with specialized care.
Not only did I connect with the patients, but I was fascinated by the healing process. Nothing made me squeamish. I was always interested to see what kind of wound would come through the door next. While volunteering with this patient population, I realized that wound care nursing was exactly what I wanted to do. I could help improve lives just like the nurses that helped my mom. I did not look for wound care. Instead, wound care found me!
As my graduation date grew near, I was offered a job as a wound care nurse. I was so excited. Within a few months, a nurse was needed at one of WCA’s other partner clinics, and I was transferred to Placentia-Linda Hospital’s wound clinic. Within a couple of years, the clinic was in need of a new Program Director. I was offered this position but when I realized this new job didn’t involve direct patient care, I was unsure. Thankfully, WCA decided to retitle the position to enable me to do both. I now have the best of both worlds: managing the clinic and acting as a liaison between the hospital and WCA, and providing patient care. Many people say they found their calling, but I truly believe my calling found me.
It’s never too late. If you listen to your inner voice and follow your heart, wonderful things can happen. Working in wound care and being part of the Wound Care Advantage family has truly provided many opportunities and I am grateful for every one of them. I enjoy having a job that allows me to continue making a difference in people’s lives. I know my mom would be proud of all that I have accomplished.