College and hospital work together to make program

a success

TAMI HART

Argus Observer

ONTARIO

Jackie George has always had a passion for nursing.

The 24-year-old Payette resident hopes to keep that passion alive as a registered nurse at Holy Rosary Medical Center, Ontario, following her graduation in June from the Treasure Valley Community College Nursing Program.

"I've always been interested in nursing. I worked as a certified nursing assistant in high school and have always enjoyed helping people," George said.

George's soon-to-be RN status has been hard-won, requiring a total dedication of her time and energy to make it through the grueling program.

"I'm in the classroom five days a week or at the hospital," George said. "You're living and breathing school for two years. It's very intense."

Recent results from the Oregon State Board of Nursing show TVCC nursing students had the highest pass rate on the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) among 17 nursing schools in Oregon. The nursing schools surveyed include other community colleges, Oregon Health Sciences University and the University of Portland.

In fact, of all the schools in the state, TVCC's nursing program was the only one to earn a 100 percent pass rate for students taking the exam. This exam is a requirement for anyone seeking licensure as a registered nurse.

TVCC also scored a 100 percent pass rate for students taking the Licensed Practical Nurse section of the exam.

Before a student can apply for the nursing program, they must complete a set of prerequisite classes in a number of subjects, such as anatomy and physiology, psychology, chemistry and math. Students also pass a pretest. Gaining admittance into the program, which only allows for 28 students, is based on a point system.

"They assign points depending on how many prerequisites you have," George said. The time she spent as a CNA earned her 30 additional points.

Once a student is accepted into the program, they will devote the next two years of their life to classes and training at Holy Rosary Medical Center, which plays an important part in the success of the program.

According to Maureen McDonough, TVCC nursing program director, the hospital provides more than $33,000 annually to help fund a nursing faculty position and other clinical needs.

"Holy Rosary not only supports the program financially, but they

provide clinical opportunities for our students, as well as jobs for many of our graduates," McDonough said.

As an RN student, George has to complete two 12-hour clinicals a week at the hospital, as well as total patient care days, when her time is devoted solely to administering to two patients for an entire day.

Clinical days start at 6:45 a.m. and end at 7:30 p.m. and are packed with information and hands-on experience.

"Depending on what our focus is, we cover things like leadership, the RN's role, surgical assessments, taking doctors' orders, and organizational skills," George said. "It's also about hands-on patient care."

George said the students are monitored closely and cannot perform any patient care tasks without a licensed person by their side.

As a second-year nursing student, George has already earned her licensed practical nurse status and works part time at the hospital, which sometimes causes her some difficulties as a student.

"When I'm there as an LPN I'm working under my own license. When I'm a student, I'm practicing under my instructor's license, so there are things that I can do as an LPN that I can't legally do as a student," she said. "I have to really stop and step back and look at what I'm doing."

George has nothing but praise for the instructors at TVCC and hospital staff.

"We're all striving towards the same goal and the instructors are right there behind us."

That personal attention, in addition to the small class size, drew George to the program.

"Coming from a small community, it's a lot easier to go to a smaller school," George said. "If you need help, the instructors are right there and they're available to you. I don't think you'd get that kind of attention in a university setting with 250 students in a class."

After two years in the program, she has developed a close relationship with fellow students and staff.

"When you're in this program, you see more of the instructors and your classmates than you do your family," she said. "It's going to be weird after I graduate to not see them on a daily basis."

A career as an RN at Holy Rosary is waiting for George after graduation. She signed a three-year contract with the hospital in return for a $6,000 scholarship.

McDonough said that the average starting wages for this year's graduates at area hospitals will be $18 to $20 an hour.

"This translates into good, family-wage earning jobs in the community," she said.

Building a strong nursing program and helping students be successful, is not only important for TVCC, but also for our entire community, McDonough said.

"Many of the nurses in our area are TVCC alumni," she explained. "We work hard to teach these students skills not only to help them succeed, but also because we know that chances are, one of them will be caring for us someday," McDonough said. "I can honestly say that with the caliber of students we teach, I would love to have them take care of me."

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