Nursing Graduate Recalls Journey to NYC, BMCC

June 20, 2008

BMCC alumna Elaine Mattis first became interested in the nursing field at the early age of nine, when she received immunizations from the school nurse in Guyana and noticed how gentle and kind the nurse was in administering the shots.

“Some of us were very scared to receive the vaccines,” she said. “I watched carefully and admired the care, love and compassion meted out to console our timid little hearts.”

That inspired Mattis, and since then she’s moved to New York City, graduated from BMCC with a nursing degree, and gotten a full-time position at Beth Israel Medical Center.

Helping Others

Mattis is a Guyana native with an accounting degree from the University of Guyana.

“When I was younger, I wanted to do medicine but at the time my country was going socialist and they were sending students to Cuba to study,” she said. “I was married with kids so I couldn’t make that sacrifice. I took a scholarship from the government and I did accounting.”

In 2000, she moved to the United States to be with her husband, leaving behind her mature children — one daughter has since moved here, another still lives in Guyana, and her son is studying at University of West Indies. In 2003, living in New York City, Mattis realized she had the opportunity pursue her dreams of doing something in the medical field.

“I grasped at the opportunity to pursue my lifelong dream of becoming a nurse as soon as my immigration papers were finalized. I started working at the Beth Israel Medical Center,” she said.

There she worked as a nurse’s assistant, interacting with and taking care of patients in order to help them feel better and more comfortable.

“Within just a few months,” she said, “I decided I wanted to pursue more schooling.”

Following Her Dreams, and Landing on Her Feet

BMCC was the perfect place for her to pursue an education in nursing, Mattis said.

“I heard about the high standards at BMCC,” she said. “I heard how competitive it was and I wanted to ensure I was getting the best education I could get. Because of that, I decided on BMCC.”

Mattis started at BMCC in summer of 2004 as a part-time student while working at Beth Israel. During her senior year here, she was awarded the annual $1,000 Caribbean American Nurses Association Scholarship.

“I think I was chosen not based on just my academic achievements, but also on my zeal to purse and have a nursing education,” she said. “There were a lot of people who were eligible and I was elated to win the scholarship. With it, I was able to buy books that were optional — books that further assist you in learning the subject matter — and that really helped me.”

After graduating, she was hired there as a full-time registered nurse. She gives much thanks to the program for her success.

“The professors were all very nice to us. It was a challenging, very difficult program. You had to study, you had to put in a lot of work and make a big sacrifice,” she said. “But we got the support that we needed. That was important: the care and concern was there when we were struggling.”

share this story »