While most college students typically finish their education before diving into the profession their degree will support, circumstance and opportunity combined to thrust Rachel Gregus into the challenge of performing both feats at the same time.
The Saginaw Valley State University student is about one year shy of earning a bachelor's degree in health science. She's also more than one year into serving as co-founder and manager of a home health care agency employing 15 people and serving 60 others in the Great Lakes Bay Region.
“It's definitely a lot of work,” she said of her work both academically and with her company, Safe Hands Warm Hearts Inc. “It's something that started out as a little idea and unfolded into something big.”
And, judging by the size of the clientele already established, it's something that Gregus has managed to steer with early success. The road preceding this stretch of success, though, had a few more twists and turns.
A 2007 Swan Valley High School graduate, Gregus said she struggled to find her calling early on in college. She dabbled in academic majors ranging from psychology to forensic science.
“I kind of threw my hands up in the air and said, ‘What am I doing,’” she said. “I was so restless. I have to have some kind of direction.”
A nursing assistant at HealthSource of Saginaw from 2010 to 2013, Gregus eventually decided to expand on her health care interests by pursuing SVSU's health science degree. Her focus was strengthened further when a close friend with engineering degrees focused in health care approached her about developing an agency that would tend to those in need of home health care.
“He asked what I knew about it, and I decided to entertain myself with some of the questions he was asking,” Gregus said of the company's owner, Udit Parikh.
What started as curious detective work online quickly transformed into the development of a functioning business.
“Before I knew it, I was creating policies and procedures,” she said.
By September 2013, Safe Hands Warm Hearts Inc. was in business.
More than a year later, the agency services about 60 people - largely an elderly population in Saginaw, Bay and Midland counties. The company also provides care for residents of Wescourt Independent Senior Living apartments in Saginaw. Gregus said the company is currently expanding coverage into Lansing.
“Once we do that, we would like to serve surrounding states, and possibly franchise,” Gregus said.
Along with her work life, Gregus has plans beyond the foreseeable future for her academic life. She eventually wants to pursue a master's degree in health care-related studies - possibly international health care or health care ethics.
“Balancing being a young manager and a student at the same time is tough,” she said. “There's a reason why people do this after they graduate, but I love what I do. It's been very rewarding.”