(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of four articles covering the open house that the Mingo County Extended Learning Center held Tuesday, Oct. 23.)
DELBARTON — James Williamson is the instructor of of the LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) program at the Mingo County Extended Learning Center and has been since 2001. He spoke with the Daily News about his program at the center’s open house Tuesday.
“It’s a 1,400-hour program,” Williamson said. “That’s clock-hours, split between 680 in the classroom and 720 in clinicals.”
Williamson said that his program boasts a 100 percent job placement, with each graduate finding work “usually within a month” and “most definitely within six months.”
However, some of the new graduates opt to continue on with their education and apply to RN (Registered Nurse) programs at nearby schools, such as Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College.
That’s the plan of Brittany Cooley, a student of the center’s LPN program. Upon her graduation in August 2013, she’ll continue her education to become an RN and then continue further to become a nurse practitioner. For now, however, she said that she “loves the program,” that she’s in.
In fact, that seemed to be the sentiment for every future LPN who spoke with the Daily News at the open house. The LPN students were conducting the various health screenings available to those in attendance, including having one’s blood pressure, sugar and oxygen checked.
Fellow student, Mechelle Hensley, said that she also enjoyed the program, but highly preferred the clinical hours over the classroom. A former paramedic, Hensley said that she enrolled in the program because of better hours that allowed her to spend more time with her daughter. She also plans to continue her education upon graduation and become an RN.
Likewise, Christina Mayhew, another student, sang praises of the program, along with her sister-in-law, Amber McCoy, who graduated as an LPN in 1995 from the center.
“I attended in February 1994 and graduated in February 1995,” McCoy said, holding her child on her lap. “It was an excellent program then and is now.”
Currently, McCoy is a full-time RN student at SWVCTC with a projected graduation date of May 2014. She said that the center’s LPN program had “taught me everything I needed to know.”
“I told my sister-in-law that it was an excellent career,” McCoy said. “I would recommend the LPN program to anyone.”
However, she said that people in the program needed dedication, saying that 31 students started with her class, but only 10 graduated.
She also said that the program enabled her to begin work right away and receive good benefits, not to mention job security.
“Really, how often do you hear about nurses getting laid off?”
Williamson echoed McCoy’s words, saying that he often receives phone calls from places wanting his nurses before they had graduated, sometimes as early as April.
“No no, you can’t have them yet!” Williamson said in a mock telephone call. “You can have them in August. They graduate in August!”
Typically, there are between 20 and 25 students in his program, but graduates usually number in the teens.
But the 2013 graduates will be a bit more skilled than others of previous programs, as a variety of other skills have been introduced into the course, such as EKG, CNA, CPR and phlebotomy. With these skills on top of what students would already learn in the LPN program, graduates could become patient caretakers instead of LPN’s.
And thus far, Williamson said he had received no complains about his students from employers.
Area locations that have allowed his students to do clinicals at include Williamson Memorial Hospital, Appalachian Regional Hospital, Good Shepherd Community Nursing Center and Trinity Healthcare.
Tomorrow’s article will cover the center’s Gifted Students program. Saturday’s will be over other features available and what the center hopes to achieve in its future.