Every day, Lianne McMahon is reminded of how proud her dad was of her when she looks at a handwritten note from him that she keeps framed in her room.
“He loved that I was smart,” said McMahon of her dad, who died in a motorcycle accident shortly after her 22nd birthday. “He was always my biggest supporter.”
McMahon is certain that he would be overjoyed to know that she will become the first person in her family to graduate college when she receives her associate degree in nursing from College of the Canyons on June 3.
“I wish he could be here to see that despite all odds and hurdles, I kept pushing and I am making it happen,” said McMahon, who lives in Simi Valley. “I knew I would get here someday, somehow. I’m proud of myself for never giving up and making it happen for myself.”
Besides facing the tragic loss of her father, McMahon badly injured her neck in a car accident and underwent jaw surgery to correct an underbite that left 16 screws in her face.
“I had to grow up at a young age and for a long time felt like I was just treading water to survive,” said McMahon.
Another setback McMahon experienced was when she was forced to decline 11 college admission offers during her high school senior year due to finances.
“Life took me on a different path and I gained a lot of work experience along the way,” said McMahon. “I wouldn’t change it looking back now. I ended up just where I was meant to be at the right time.”
But McMahon always knew that nursing was her calling because of her early fascination with the human body and how it works.
“I was the kid eating spaghetti while watching ‘ER’ and my mom would be horrified,” said McMahon. “I have an intrinsic drive to help others. I love that nursing bridges the many facets of who I am.”
After being accepted into COC’s nursing program in fall 2018, McMahon hit the ground running and even quit her full-time job in retail management to focus solely on her studies.
“I have managed to keep straight A’s in nursing school and that’s definitely something I am proud of,” said McMahon.
McMahon, who is concurrently enrolled in Ohio University’s online Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, also serves as the COC student/faculty liaison representative for her cohort.
In addition, McMahon is an active member of the National Student Nurses Association and of the Alpha Delta Nu Honor’s Society, which requires that members maintain a 3.0 GPA. In her free time, she helps other nursing students as an Alpha Delta Nu tutor.
“I truly have had the time of my life in nursing school,” said McMahon. “I am inspired by each and every relationship I have made along this journey. Our cohort has overcome many hurdles to get to our virtual graduation day. We had the fires, the Saugus shooting, and now a global pandemic. Each semester there was a major obstacle, and our faculty and students demonstrated a level of adaptability that I think is inspiring.”
When the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic began to escalate, the fate of COC’s RN Class of 2020 hung in the balance when hospitals suspended nursing clinical training programs.
Fortunately, McMahon and her 59 classmates were able to fulfill the nursing clinical hours required by the Board of Registered Nursing to graduate thanks to a Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) restriction waiver and the innovative thinking of the COC nursing faculty.
“I am so grateful to be a part of the College of the Canyons RN program because our faculty and leadership found a way for us to graduate on time,” said McMahon. “When other schools responded by telling their students they would reconvene in the fall, COC found a way. I truly admire and look up to our faculty. I can’t thank them enough for genuinely caring about us and leading by example.”
One of the ways COC nursing students fulfilled clinical training hours was by volunteering at the on-campus COVID-19 testing site.
When the time came to pick a testing site student leader, McMahon became the obvious choice.
“I’ve always felt like if you need a title to be a leader, you’re doing it wrong,” said McMahon. “For me, I give my all to what I do. I just wanted to help.”
McMahon described the experience as challenging because it forced students to quickly develop contact-free nursing skills and learn how to communicate clearly with patients through the distance of a vehicle.
“Many years from now, I can look back and know I was able to help in some capacity during a global pandemic,” said McMahon. “That is so cool.”
COC Nursing Program Director Mary Corbett described Lianne as the “glue” of her student group, having facilitated the class app to help students communicate and study together.
“She is a leader and someone who takes interest in the success of others,” said Corbett. “When the COC nursing students completed their clinical hours at the COC COVID-19 test site, Lianne was one of the student leaders who enthusiastically oriented students from other nursing programs to the testing site procedures, caring that they too could successfully complete their required clinical hours in effective service to our community.”
Aside from having the encouragement from the college’s nursing faculty, McMahon is also grateful for the tremendous support she received from her entire family and fiancé.
“He is so supportive and has seen the dedication and hard work it takes to succeed in this process and knows what I have sacrificed to get here,” said McMahon.
As for the future, McMahon hopes to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) on her first attempt and to work in a hospital critical care setting.
“I am so ready for this next chapter and can’t wait to see where I end up,” said McMahon.
When asked what she will miss the most about being a nursing student at COC, McMahon said she will miss all the people she has met along the way.
“COC has been one of the best experiences of my life,” said McMahon. “It is filled with genuine people who are great at what they do. Who knows, maybe I’ll come back as a faculty member and be able to pay it forward and create that same environment for others. I would love that.”