Mississippi instructor transforms challenges into passion

Published 9:25 pm Sunday, December 3, 2023

Meridian Community College’s Brittany Risher’s path to nursing was paved with determination, resilience, and a strong desire to help others – especially her students.

And it all started with her great-grandmother Omatine Jones’ encouragement.

Now completing her first semester as a clinical instructor in MCC’s Practical Nursing Program, Risher sees teaching nursing as a calling and a blending of two passions that merge into helping others.

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At 13, Risher was diagnosed with Chiari Malformation. “That’s where the base of my brain – cerebellar tonsils – came out of my skull. And that’s when I had to have brain surgery,” she explained. Doctors encouraged her mother to quit her job and homeschool Risher, she said, explaining, “They were not sure if I would be able to complete traditional school.” There were also questions about whether Risher could carry or even deliver her children. “They know more about Chiari now, and I’m glad they were wrong at the time,” she said.

Risher did her homework on the condition. “I loved researching what this was and how it made me different because it wasn’t common,” she said.

With her family’s help, she began doing community outreach, working with support teams, and helping others who were going through similar situations. “I like helping people. But I didn’t know what that meant in high school,” she said.

She questioned career choices. “I threw around the idea of being a high school teacher for a while,” Risher said. But, again, it was her great-grandmother who said, “No. You need to go into nursing,” Risher said.

Risher received her associate degree in nursing from MCC in 2015 and began working in Oxford. Her career has taken her through various nursing fields, including emergency nursing, labor and delivery, and hospice. Through them, she’s gained experiences she shares with her students.

A mentor in Oxford, who knew Risher wanted to get her bachelor’s degree and eventually teach, encouraged her to work in the different areas of nursing. “She said if you get comfortable in one area and it becomes routine, push yourself to do something different,” Risher said.

“I’m glad I did that when I had the opportunity; it worked out,” she said. Risher would earn her bachelor of science degree in nursing from Mississippi University for Women.

Coming to MCC to teach was as if fate was working things out. As a mom of preschool twins Eden and Caroline, Risher was a telehealth nurse doing care management. “I enjoyed that, too,” she said, explaining she saw her patients via video conferencing calls. But the company she worked for went bankrupt – without warning its employees, and Risher was suddenly out of a job.

Knowing she wanted to keep her daughters on a routine, Risher dropped off the children at the babysitter and explained what had happened. The sitter saw an announcement for the opening of a clinical instructor at MCC and told Risher, “You’ve always wanted to do this. Why don’t you do it?”

“It was a blessing,” she said.

Risher’s role as an instructor has allowed her to share her knowledge and encourage her students to succeed. She finds it fulfilling to help them overcome anxiety and develop the skills they need to excel in their nursing careers.

Risher and her husband, Travis, were high school sweethearts, and in addition to the twins, daughter Josie, who is one year old, rounds out the family. They make their home in Enterprise.

With her medical condition, Risher noted that Chiari is better known now and that what her mom was told initially about Risher’s future was wrong. “I’ve graduated from college twice, delivered twins and my one-year-old. My family thinks that it is inspiring for other students, and they encourage me to not hold back from talking about myself much.”

Visit meridiancc.edu/nursing to learn more about MCC’s nursing programs.