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NEWS | Oct. 25, 2021

Guardsman mechanic pursues future as a nurse

By Sgt. Matthew Damon, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office

The smell of burning metal is consuming and smoke fills the air under the hood. There is only darkness with one bright light to serve as the guide for the project. This is the day-to-day life of anyone who is a welder.

Meet Kentucky Army National Guard Sgt. Janay McLain, a construction equipment repairer and squad leader with 2061st Multi-Role Bridge Company. She is a welder in the civilian world and a mechanic in the Guard.

She graduated from St. Catharine College in 2015, with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, because, even early on, she had a desire to help people. McLain quickly realized that her psychology degree would not yield her a career in which she could help people or pay bills. This steered her toward a career that she knew could provide a decent living, welding.

“After I graduated from college, I couldn’t find a good paying job to support myself,” said McLain. “I knew that welding paid well, so I taught myself to weld, took the opportunity, ran with it and passed a welding test to secure my first welding job.”

Fast forward to the present, McLain has been working at Pikeville Medical Center handling non-clinical duties in support of the Kentucky Guard’s COVID-19 response, specifically transporting patients to various appointments and procedures throughout the hospital. Stepping into her role here, she realized that she has much more to offer the world than just welding, and wants to make a difference in the world.

“I truly feel that this mobilization happened for a reason,” said McLain. “While the circumstances leading to this mobilization are unfortunate, I am grateful to be part of it and to see where it is leading me.”

While on this mobilization, McLain made the decision to go back to school for a career that would make a difference in the world. This decision led her to looking into a field that has seen critical shortages, but certainly makes a difference in the world, nursing.

“The healthcare field takes a special kind of person,” said Donovan Blackburn, president and chief executive officer of Pikeville Medical Center. “There has to be a glean in your eye and passion in your heart. Janay exudes this.”

McLain reflected that one person working in the hospital can have a tremendous impact to others there.

“While preparing to transport a patient, I walked into the room and their face lit up,” said McLain. “The patient asked me to FaceTime with their child because the child wants to be a Soldier. Taking that three minutes out of your day, can be the world to a patient, or in this case, their family. This lifted my spirit, and if I can return that favor, it makes everything worthwhile.”

While working in the hospital, McLain had the opportunity to meet with Michelle Rainey, senior vice president and chief nursing officer at Pikeville Medical Center. Rainey has served as a mentor to McLain throughout the nursing school application process.

“Janay has ‘that’ motivation, drive and compassion,” said Rainey. “She is a shining example of what a nurse should be.”

McLain submitted multiple applications to local nursing schools. Last week, she received her acceptance letter, and under the advisement of Rainey, has decided to pursue her education at Galen College of Nursing in Louisville.

While the circumstances of the Kentucky Army National Guard’s presence at hospitals throughout the Commonwealth are unfortunate, McLain’s inspirational story has been a bright light in an otherwise dark time.

As of Oct. 27, 2021, more than 300 Soldiers and Airmen with the Kentucky National Guard are providing support to more than 20 hospitals, as well as supporting vaccination teams and food banks in the Commonwealth.

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