Rockford man becomes nurse at 45-years-old

After a company shut down, he had to discover a new path, “Failure was not really an option for me,” said Bob.
Published: May. 17, 2023 at 8:55 AM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Changing a career path in your forties could seem like a daunting task, but don’t tell that to one stateline man.

Bob Hopkins is the definition of ‘cant stop won’t stop’ after throwing away the rule book and entering the medical field in his 40′s.

20 years ago, Bob happily spent his work week handling public relations for a local company. All of that came crashing down when the company abruptly closed it’s doors.

“Failure was not really an option for me,” said Bob.

Bob says his wife planted the seed to become a nurse in his mind. After seeing his father in-law become terminally ill and two other family members die of addiction, his path became crystal clear. At 40-years-old, Bob took that idea and went to nursing school at OSF Saint Anthony, officially becoming a nurse at 45-years-old. Now, that planted seed is a blossoming career.

“My wife and daughter were the ultimate support system because they were a lot of times during it, it was very challenging. They were like ‘hey you can do this’,” Bob explains.

He says he had to overcome some big hurdles. Some of these hurdles were juggling family life, to covering the bills, including his mortgage, and tuition costs and attending school full time. He needed a lot of support, but knowing how many lives he could impact, Bob says those hurdles were worth it.

“I had a young guy come in, he was honest with me. He said ‘I just used heroin, I’m an addict. However, I just went to the hospital with my daughter. They saw the track marks on my arm, they took my daughter away,” Bob recalls, “I wanna beat this, I wanna get through this.”

Nursing is a female-dominated industry and male caregivers also face a lot of stereotypes. Bob says, those things won’t affect the way he cares for his patients or co-workers. In fact, he says he loves being a mentor to future nurses.

“I was raised by a very smart, driven, single mom. My wife’s a smart, driven lady. My daughter is, so it’s really just something I’m used to,” said Bob.

“When you go to him, he’s very comforting and he just walks you through it. You just feel comfortable going to him,” said Mykeela Wiggins, who is a registered nurse at OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center and works alongside Bob.

“They call me ‘work dad’ like ‘hey you’re wearing your dad shoes,” Bob jokes.

“He is kind of like a dad,” said Wiggins.

She says Bob creates a balance and provides a sense of calm within the hospital. Wiggins explains how men tend to be more calm in high energy situations, while women can become more panicked.

23 News asked Bob where he sees himself in 10 years and Bob says, he hopes to be teaching the next generation of nurses.

Until then, his roots are planted at OSF where he wants to keep his focus towards his patients and supporting his daughter through college and her own career, just like she supported him.