2010-01-21 / Local & State

New Nursing Program Makes A Difference In Students’ Lives

SPECIAL TO THE NEWS

Before they all first met in the spring of 2008, Amber Hampton, Gladys Rosenberry, Bryan Graham, Sri Burger, and Rodney Waters had a couple of things in common. They all eagerly dreamed of becoming a nurse. And they all couldn’t imagine how that would ever be possible for any of them.

Marriage, children, divorce, mortgages, car payments – life – had provided each of them with challenges that delayed plans for higher education and kept them in entry level jobs with little possibility for advancement. All found their way into healthcare as aides and nursing assistants, but the opportunity to pursue their dream eluded them.

That is, until the Institute for Caregiver Education in Chambersburg, Pa., launched the first practical nursing program in the quad-state region specifically designed for nontraditional students. Responding to the ominous projections of LPN shortages throughout PA and the Cumberland Valley, the Institute designed a two-year, part-time program to accommodate students who wanted to pursue additional studies, but had to continue to work to support themselves and their families.

Which is how our five intrepid dreamers now find themselves in the final semester of a four-semester program that will culminate with their graduation as practical nurses in July of this year. There will be 28 graduates in the class.

“This program is a win-win situation on many levels,” says Myrna Eshleman, administrator of the Institute’s Practical Nursing Program. “Nationally, the demand for LPNs is projected to grow by 14 percent by 2016. In PA, the Department of Labor has projected that by 2010, right now, there will be an LPN shortage of between 7,100 and 8,400 positions. Retirements and job burnout are exacerbating an already perilous situation. This program allows the Institute to help address these shortfalls, fulfill its mission and develop the talent of individuals already in the field who wish to advance their studies and contribute at a higher level.”

As flexible and innovative as the program is, it is not for the faint-hearted or undecided. “You better be real certain that becoming an LPN is what you really want,” says Waters, Burnt Cabins, Pa., a 53-year-old who is a 26- year employee of the Maryland Department of Hygiene and Mental Health. “You have to be prepared to put a lot of time into this and essentially put the rest of your life on hold.”

Gladys Rosenberry agrees. “I was discouraged by various individuals before I found this program. I work five days per week, plus two days of school, so I have no days off, which makes it difficult. But I’m determined to do this because it is my dream.” Rosenberry, 47, has been a nursing assistant at South Mountain Restoration Center for the past two years.

In addition to kids, work schedules, and financial concerns, Sri Burger has the additional challenge of learning the curriculum in a non-native tongue. Born in Indonesia, Burger, 44, says “The good thing about my experience with this program is that it gives me plenty of time to learn. If I am weak in one area, or need help in mastering another, the teachers give me plenty of chances to catch up.” She is employed as a nursing assistant at Chambersburg Hospital.

All five credit the faculty and staff with providing the right mix- ture of encouragement, flexibility, emotional support, academic rigor and fairness as the program has progressed. “They (Eshleman and her primary colleague, Vicky Ringel) are like a second set of moms to us,” says Graham, 30, who has more than 12 years experience as a nursing assistant in Chambersburg. “Their support has often made the difference when we’ve become discouraged and thought about dropping out. No other program I looked into welcomed me as warmly.”

The program is also known for the richness of the clinical training experience. Institute President Annette Sanders says, “The staff and faculty have insisted on the broadest clinical training possible so students cannot only learn about the different medical disciplines, but also the different venues in which they are provided.” Students have observed and practiced in settings including hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, hospices, doctors’ offices and childcare centers.

So for now, the 28 students in the Institute’s first practical nursing class go to class, study, go to work, study, do homework, study, and will repeat this prescription until the semester ends on July 7. Some are already looking ahead to their next steps, encouraged and proud of their achievements against such daunting odds. Burger and Graham both want to become registered nurses, Graham using his degree to facilitate a career as a missionary nurse, preferably in Africa. Hampton looks forward to practicing as an LPN and using her newly earned credentials to advocate for more empowerment and respect for nursing assistants. All say that participating in this program has been a life-changing experience.

The Institute for Caregiver Education is currently recruiting for its next practical nursing classes which will begin in August 2010. For more information, contact Loretta Zimmerman at 717-263- 7766, or visit our Web site at www.caregivereducation.org

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