Faces in the Crowd: Jennifer Housand never gave up on her dreams

Jennifer Housand, who works at OBX Shipping Center in Kill Devil Hills and Barefoot Bernie's Tropical Grill & Bar in Kitty Hawk, often brings her two dogs to work with her at the shipping center. Bodhi, pictured on the left, recently was diagnosed with canine lymphoma. Housand, who is studying to be a surgical technician, suspected lymphoma was the cause for Bodhi's lethargy and other symptoms. A trip to the vet confirmed the diagnosis.

By Donna Gable Hatch Editor

With the intense seasonality of tourism affecting a variety of industries, Outer Banks residents are no strangers to holding multiple jobs and keeping long hours to make the most of the busy summers.

Jennifer Housand is one such person. The Kill Devil Hills resident juggles multiple jobs while working to achieve her dreams.

“I’m studying to be a surgical technician. I graduate in December,” says Housand, who was awarded a scholarship from Outer Banks Hospital which includes a two-year full-time position upon graduation.

“I used to work as a medical assistant in Maryland for an OB-GYN who used to always talk about the amazing surgeries he had performed, and I knew I wanted to be in the operating room,” she says.

A single mother of two daughters — and an ever-growing herd of pets, both large and small — Housand works two jobs: OBX Shipping Center on Airstrip Road in Kill Devil Hills and Barefoot Bernie’s Tropical Grill & Bar in Kitty Hawk. “They are very supportive of my goals,” she says of her employers.

“I have been a single parent for 12 years. It’s been tough at times, but it’s an amazing journey.

“My girls are now 13 and 16 and they are my biggest supporters of my decision to go back to school. I call them my mini-fan club and cheering section. It’s nice to sit down as a family and have dinner, and then do homework together.”

An average week doesn’t afford her much down time.

“I have class and lab [two days a week]. On those days, my morning starts at 5:30 a.m., and I usually get home around 9 p.m. because I work right after school.”

Clinicals make up the remaining three days of the regular work week.

“Those days begin at 4 a.m. I usually pack our lunches the night before to save time. I’m currently doing my clinical rotation at Chesapeake Hospital. I’m normally home by 6 p.m., but I have homework — a lot of homework.”

“I love the hands-on of clinicals and being able to learn from so many different people daily. You definitely have to learn fast in the operating room and be able to take constructive criticism.”

The weekends bring very little, if any, reprieve from the hustle of the rest of the week.

“Weekends I work double shifts. I still have a mortgage to pay,” she says, adding the long hours and sacrifices are worth it.

“I cannot wait to graduate and not have to work multiple jobs to provide for my family. Waitressing and bartending is what I’ve mostly done for the past 20 years.

“It’s been great, and I love it, but I was ready to stop running and focus on the career that I’ve wanted for a long time — but it has always been out of reach,” she says.

“The timing was finally right for me to go back to school, and I couldn’t be happier.”

Long road to success

Housand moved to Kill Devil Hills from Maryland in 2012, moving into a home she had purchased in 2004.

“I actually bought a house the very first time I came down!”

The move wasn’t a fleeing decision. The long hours she keeps makes it possible for her to surround herself with the local community and all of the perks that come with beach living.

“I plan to stay on the beach once I graduate. I’m sure I’ll have to commute, but I knew that living here,” she says. “I love to be outside — hiking, surfing, playing with the kids and dogs. We love animals, especially rescuing them. We currently have four rescues: two dogs, a cat, and a guinea pig.”

One of her dogs, a golden lab named Bodhi, was recently diagnosed with canine lymphoma, something Housand suspected but was confirmed after a trip to the veterinarian.

“My medical training told me something was wrong, and it had all the signs of lymphoma,” she says. “Unfortunately, I was right.”

Her youngest daughter started a Facebook page to let customers and friends know about his medical struggle. Bodhi has been a fixture at OBX Shipping since he was a pup.

The owners of the store put a donation jar on the counter, “and people just toss in what they can,” she says. “It’s so touching and appreciated that so many people care about him”

Housand says, for now, Bodhi is happy gnawing on his bone, getting belly rubs and cuddling.

“He’s going through chemo, but he doesn’t know he has cancer — and I’m not going to tell him,” Housand says.

“He’s a happy boy, and that’s all that matters.”

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