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High School Senior Builds Relationships, Job Skills at Nazareth

Posted by Kacie Emmerson

March 18, 2023

The following was posted by the Nelson County School District as part of the schools’ celebration of senior students as graduation approaches. Story by Forrest Berkshire.

Courtney Wilson has known since she was a freshman that she wanted to go into the healthcare field. These past several months, her goal has grown more tangible while she gained experience caring for the elderly and learned lessons that only come through experience.

Courtney has spent her senior year at Nelson County High working as a Medicaid nurse aide caring for the Sisters who reside in Nazareth’s Carrico Hall, as her work-based learning experience. She has taken health sciences classes at the school district’s Area Technology Center since she was a freshman and plans to attend Elizabethtown Community and Technical College’s nursing program after she graduates. But she says her time at Nazareth has taught her hands-on lessons outside of the classroom.

Sister Judith poses for a photo in the hall with Courtney

“I’m still learning something new every day. I’m learning how to care for people. I’m learning how to handle situations where I need to act fast.”

She is also learning interpersonal skills as a 17-year-old caring for the retired nuns who are two generations older than her.

“I am by far the youngest person there,” she said. “I’ve gotten so much better with my communication skills. I went in there nervous. I’ve learned a lot.”

Before working at Nazareth, Courtney knew nothing about the religious order with ministries that span the globe and has called Bardstown home since 1812. She learned about the opportunity through her Health Sciences teacher, Brittany Newton, who has worked there for almost seven years.

It was Mrs. Newton who worked to open the opportunities for her health science students at Nazareth. She convinced the Sisters to lower the eligible age for workers to 16, and Courtney was one of the first students she sent to Nazareth. She was invested in providing the best students she could for the role, because she also works alongside the students. Courtney is one of five students in Mrs. Newton’s program working at Nazareth.

“On the weekends, when I’m working, I don’t want to work with just anybody,” Mrs. Newton said. “Courtney is absolutely excellent. I trust her. I will usually request her as my certified nursing assistant when I am working because when you’ve got a strong team, it makes the day easier, and in a health care situation you never know what one minute to the next will look like. And I just never have to worry if she’s there.”

Mrs. Newton said the residents and the administration love Courtney.

“The staff loves her. The Sisters love her. Pat Hicks, her boss and my boss, has said if she could just clone 10 Courtneys, everything would run smooth. She’s one of the best.”

Courtney said she has made a connection with Nazareth that will last beyond her profession-based experience through high school, and she plans after graduation to continue caring for the Sisters.

Courtney helps Sisters prepare for their day

“It’s just a blessing to work there,” she said.

Going into this year, Courtney wasn’t sure whether work-based learning would be the right experience for her. Her typical school day starts when she gets to work at 7 a.m. and works until 12:30, then finishes up her day at NCHS and taking dual-credit college courses through ECTC.

“Coming and going from work to school is honestly the best thing for me because I’m getting the hands on that I need for nursing, and I’m still getting my classes. I couldn’t be more thankful.”

She has also experienced some aspects of her future career that can only be experienced in the workplace, like the death of someone she has cared for. While she is working with elders as a high-schooler, she wants to be a nurse in pediatric oncology, and the reality of both fields is that you will lose a patient.

She has had Sisters she cared for that have passed away.

“It’s tough, it’s hard, it really is,” she said. “But I think it’s really preparing me, especially if I want to go into pediatric oncology.”


  1. McBride Cosby Janet

    Congratulations Courtney! You are very blessed to care for the Sisters as much as you are clearly a blessing to the Sisters. How wonderful it is to know this Program exists.

    Years ago when in Richmond, VA as a teen like you I wanted to be a nurse. I was a honor student who excelled in science and math. My mother came to learn from a friend that a nearby low income nursing home was looking for nurses aid. I applied and began working there. After only a day or two, I wanted to quit, but didn’t verbalize why, so my mother directed me to stay as I had given my word. So I continued working there for two years, throughout the summers and school year. I worked full time in the summers riding my bike to and from for my 7AM-3PM shift. I was considered by the staff to be one of the best nurses aids. Best not necessarily by knowledge or skill, but by attitude and reliability.

    However, upon my high school graduation, I abruptly and sadly changed my thoughts about a nursing career. I randomly changed my major to accounting taking direction from a high school friend. Why? Because I was shocked by the lack of compassion from my team members by either their attitudes or unreliability. I also was worn down by the work itself, mostly by the mere volume since my piers didn’t come to work so my workload doubled and my satisfaction decreased dramatically because I couldn’t care for my patients the way they deserved. I also was made to care for men patients which was frightening as an innocent young girl. I much later came to learn my mother was told the facility had male orderlies for the men patients, but I never shared with her because I was uncomfortable with speaking about such intimate details.

    I have said for years my choice for my Major at the University would have been so different if I had had a RN mentor me the way you have apparently. Had only one of the nurses taken interest in this quiet, shy, hardworking 15 year old, my dreams of being a nurse would have been fulfilled and perhaps I would have changed, maybe even saved lives. So it makes my heart so happy to know this program exists both for the young and the elderly. Only blessings could come from the young by caring for the Religious who have done so much for our society.

    May God bless this program abundantly. And may God bless all the residents. Thank you for your prayers and love. You are a blessing to us all by your great humility, courage and faith in God.

  2. Blanche Correia

    Courtney ,
    What an opportunity to care for the elderly Sisters .You have been blessed by them . You have set an example for your young friends .

  3. Blanche Correia

    Courtney ,
    What an opportunity to care for the elderly Sisters .You are already blessed by them . You have set an example for your young friends .

  4. Ann Palatty

    It is tough, it is hard, it really is. Indeed , Courtney , you have taught us the reality of life and the joy such experiences provide. Thank you for your compassionate commitment at such a young age. May your dreams come true.

  5. Angie Shaughnessy SCN

    I knew the moment I met you that you are a special caregiver!!

  6. Jackie Smith

    What a wonderful story! Courtney you are inspiring and a wonderful role model for other students. Keep up the great work! I too was a work-based student back in the day. This is a great program. I’m so happy to see Nazareth embrace these young ones and help further their careers.

  7. Maggie Cooper

    Wow! Courtney your story and your educational choices are inspiring!
    We all around here love you! Blessings on you and your future direction in nursing!

  8. Maria Brocato

    What an inspiration to find a young woman like Courtney ready to work, serve and learn..I hope she continues to move forward on this journey of hers.


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