Co-curricular program offers solution to nursing shortage

Posted: Wednesday, May 15, 2002

Kenai Peninsula College is committed to sponsoring programs that address workforce development for the future needs of Alaska businesses. One of the occupations facing massive shortages is nursing. KPC was happy to see 10 individuals complete their first year of training and graduate as licensed practical nurses May 2. They are on track to become registered nurses upon completing the program.

KPC has formed a partnership with Weber State University, a Utah institution that specializes in distance nursing programs, to put together a two-year, associate of nursing degree. These students have graduated as licensed practical nurses after completing clinical rotations and extensive course work. They will take the Alaska state board exam this summer and must pass before they can continue with the second year of the program. Unfortunately, budget restrictions will not allow for the program to start a new class every year at the Soldotna campus. The program will be offered at KPC's Kachemak Bay Branch beginning in the fall. Additional Weber State programs in Alaska include sites in Ketchikan and Sitka.

Students enrolled in the program are quick to say that commitment and discipline are vital for success. Students are required to complete a large number of classes even before applying to the program. Of the 20 applicants who met initial criteria, only 12 were accepted into the program and 10 of those completed the first year. Because a significant part of the program course work is delivered via the Internet, being proactive and on schedule is paramount to success. Students are required to establish an online portfolio that includes their lesson plans, quizzes and instructor notes. The online instructors communicate with students via e-mail, sometimes several times a day. Exams are given via proctor in the KPC Learning Center.

Clinical rotations are done at Central Peninsula General Hospital, Heritage Place, area schools, physician offices and with area midwives. Students operate under strict supervision and must follow established protocols and meet high standards.

Clinical instructor Lynn Senette, R.N., gives one-on-one instruction to each student when working with patients. She provides guidance, instruction and encouragement so students reach their highest potential.

According to student Will Blizzard, the Weber State-KPC program provides an opportunity for him to remain with his family and focus on his studies.

"Without this program I'd be commuting to Anchorage all the time," he said. "I love the program."

Will, one of two males in this class, was inspired to go into nursing while employed at CPGH as a "monitor technician."

"One day while working in ICU, I noticed the male nurses and a light went off in my head -- I could do this," he said.

He also got inspiration from his wife, Deb Blizzard. Deb is a respected registered nurse at CPGH and has supported her husband so he could devote himself to completing the program.

Another successful nursing student, Angela Burger, also loves the program. Being a wife and mother would not allow her to travel to Anchorage to become one. Angela found her inspiration for nursing when helping care for her father in his battle with cancer. She started getting comments from her father's nurses that she was a wonderful caregiver and would make a great nurse.

"I could not see that potential in myself until others started commenting on it," Angela said. "It was surprising that I found strength going through such a painful process. I saw that I wanted to learn more."

A hearty congratulations with plenty of encouragement for future success goes to the following future nurses: Syerenna Van Bruggen, Denise Rosin, Kathryn Richardson, Sara Kolasinski, Heather Knudsen, Stacey Espy, Ellie Edmondson, Jeremy Chase, Angela Burger and William Blizzard.

For more information about the nursing program, call 262-0330.

This column is provided by Suzie Kendrick, community relations coordinator at Kenai Peninsula College.

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