College dropout and unabashed low-achiever Elton Washington announced to family and friends on Thursday that he planned to enter Smith Nursing School next year.
"I know my grades were pretty bad in high school and I never really got the hang of college, but I thought, what the heck, let's give nursing a try," Washington said.
Family members were surprised at Washington's sudden interest in work, although several friends thought he'd make a good nurse.
"He's got a nice smile," Janice Randolph said.
"He's pretty strong, so when a patient needs to be restrained, Elton can whip that Randy Orton headlock on the guy," said a 20-year-old male who called himself Bruce T. "Kick ass, man."
"He's always doing nice things for people," best-friend Zack Williams said. "Like when he mixes drugs at parties, we all seem to get the perfect high. He really ought to be a doctor. But I think it's good he's starting out with nursing, you know, like crawl before you can walk."
Washington, 24, said none of his previous jobs held his attention for more than a few days, but things changed when he met girlfriend Wendy Foster at Janesway Junior College two days before quitting school.
"She got me to believe in myself," Washington said. "I thought, 'Man, you can drift along taking classes and learning stuff, or you can stand up, make a statement and drop out of school.' So I did."
Washington said Foster's advice touched him so profoundly, he spray-painted it on the student union building's handsome brick facade: "Skoool isn't for everybuddy."
At Washington's announcement Thursday, a beaming Foster said it was "the thought that counted, not the spelling."
"I'd like to give a special shout-out to Janesway JC and its open-enrollment policy, or I never would've found a girl as smart as Wendy," Washington said.
Typically, nursing programs run two years for an entry-level associate's degree and require students to have a minimum 3.0 grade point average, but Washington claimed "there's ways around that." He said he thought he could cut enough corners to get through the program in "a few weeks or so." He's narrowed his area of interest to cardiovascular issues, wound management, trauma and infectious diseases.
"In nursing school, there's a lot of mumbo-jumbo that isn't really that important," he said. "Like in high school. Who uses math? Me, I just ask the next guy for the answer. It's gotten me this far.
"Main thing is, patients got to get nursed-up. How you do it isn't as important as just doing it."
Foster said any hospital would "be lucky" to have a caring nurse like Washington, and "with one or two more months of schooling, Doctor Washington."
A nursing spokesperson at Sacred Heart Hospital in Pittsburgh said the profession needs better medical personnel, and while administrators have, at times, stooped low to fill jobs, from what she understands of Washington's credentials thus far, he would break new ground.
"This would be a travesty," the spokesperson said. "He's the very kind of person we try to weed out at registration."
In the meantime, Washington said he was going to get "cranked up" for nursing school by being Williams' wingman and party for the next several months.
"Now that I found my career path, I need to sit back and decompose for a while," Washington said, although many announcement attendees believed he meant "decompress."
"That's my boy," said Charles Washington, Elton's father. "He can decompose with the best of them."