Polk State Nursing graduate continues a family legacy

Posted on by Polk Newsroom

Beverly Laidig began her journey into nursing with large shoes to fill.

A member of Polk State College’s 130th graduating class, Laidig was inspired to go into the profession and attend Polk State by her mother, grandmother, and aunts – all accomplished nurses.

Laidig’s mother, Sallie Smith, spent 53 years as a nurse at Lakeland Regional Health, retired as supervisor of the emergency department, and attended A Night of Legacy to celebrate her daughter’s accomplishments. Her aunt, Charlotte Brooks, was once Florida’s Director of Children’s Medical Services. Aunt Rebecca Brooks was a nurse at Watson Clinic for 45 years and her grandmother, Ann Brooks, worked as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) at Lakeland Regional Health (then Lakeland General Hospital) for 18 years.

“They helped people,” Laidig recalled. “My mother was a cardiac nurse. I would see how proud she was when she was able to help patients who weren’t sure they were going to make it.”

An LPN at Watson Clinic since 1996, Laidig, 50, has earned her Associate in Science in Nursing at Polk State. Having an ADN will open opportunities for Laidig to move into a supervisory position or work in a hospital setting.

“The College is very inclusive and welcoming,” she said of Polk State. “I’m an older student and they welcomed me in with open arms.”

A mother of four, Laidig waited until her children were well into school before pursuing a nursing degree. With two sons in the military, one daughter working toward becoming an Occupational Therapy Assistant, and another daughter, a college graduate working in marketing, Laidig said it’s been her family’s turn to celebrate her accomplishment.

“They’ve been so supportive and so encouraging,” she explained. “My husband Keith is taking control of everything – the bills, the chores. He said I put my life on hold for everyone else and I deserve this.”

In addition to working in the nursing profession, learning the skills of the trade at Polk State is also something of a family tradition.

“I wanted to go where my mom and my aunt went,” Laidig noted. “I had always heard great things about Polk State.”

Laidig said what she finds most rewarding about nursing is the opportunity to make a difference. Laidig recalled her mother coming across people at the supermarket whom she had helped when they were patients. They remained grateful for the help.

“I love to talk to people; I love to meet people and hear their stories,” Laidig added. “This allows me to make connections to people. Human interaction is missing in today’s world.”

Laidig first began taking prerequisites at Polk State in 2010. She was accepted into the Nursing Program in 2022. During her time at Polk State, Laidig has been involved with Phi Theta Kappa, Alpha Delta Nu, and Golden Key Club International Honor Society, and has served as a pharmacology tutor.

“The clubs are very active,” Laidig added. “Polk State is a great place.”

For Laidig, the list of mentors at Polk State is a long one. She listed professors Laura Glidewell, Amy Eaton, Maggie Chaffin, Danielle Delgiudice, and Gwyn Phillips, as well as Interim Clinical Coordinator Amy Lewis among those who made a profound impact. Next, Laidig hopes to earn her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Polk State.

“The instructors and nursing staff at Polk State have been incredible,” Laidig said. “It’s amazing how much they know and how they are able to teach each person in a way they can understand. My long-term goal is to teach at the College as faculty.”

Between the Associate in Science and Bachelor of Science in Nursing, about 450 students enroll in Polk State’s nursing programs each year. Polk State Associate in Nursing graduates boast a 100% first-time pass rate on the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses. Laidig offered advice to those considering the program.

“Just do it – take that step,” she advised. “Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will. I’m very blessed, very fortunate, and very honored. Returning to school was a tough decision, but I’m very proud to be a Polk State graduate.”