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Saturday, June 23, 2018

WCC Prepares Nurses for the 21st Century

Also see the related story: "Begin a Health Care Career in a Few Weeks."

WCC has been training nursing professionals for more than 35 years. And like with most careers today, technology is redefining the way nurses care for their patients.

For example, blood pressure machines reflect the sophisticated nature of the equipment used in diagnosing and treating patients. Many of the WCC Registered Nursing program’s clinical sites are going paperless. And bedside documentation is now often done on a computer. However, technology isn’t the only thing reshaping the nursing environment.

“The 21st century nurse must be comfortable being part of a team,” said Gloria Velarde, chair of the program. “You don’t nurse in isolation. You nurse in collaboration with physicians, social workers, pharmacists, dietitians, and other nurses. And that involves clear and concise communication skills.”

What Makes a Good Nurse?

Though a caring nature is still at the core of nursing, according to Velarde, it is not enough to be successful in the field. As the health care environment evolves, today’s nurses also need:

  • a good science knowledge base
  • competency with technology
  • strong communication skills
  • skill at finding information online quickly and efficiently

WCC nursing students are amazed by the amount of knowledge they have to learn and use, especially in the sciences, Velarde said.

“Our students realize very quickly that science is important, but they don’t fully grasp how much is really used in making decisions and judgments until they enter the clinical portion of our program,” she said. “Nurses pull from everywhere. They must use a very broad perspective to make decisions.”

Students Surprised By Amount of Time Required

The time commitment required to become a nursing professional today is often a big surprise to students.

“We hold an orientation three months before classes start where we talk about the rigors of the program,” said Velarde. “We also discuss the time they will spend in clinical and lab settings. Many of our students are balancing other responsibilities—home, family, and a job. It can be a real challenge for them, and we want to make sure that they know exactly what is expected.

“We tell them that they are going to spend a lot of time practicing. Any time you learn a new skill or obtain new information, you have to practice it over and over again until you master it. Though some people will pick it up quicker than others, everyone must practice.”

What About the Waiting List?

The WCC Registered Nursing program admits 40 students each semester for a total of 80 students a year. According to Velarde, there are currently about 200 people on a list waiting to be admitted into the program. Those numbers appear to translate into a two to two-and-a-half-year wait, but they can be deceiving.

“Many times students start the program in a year, year and a half,” Velarde said. “When they apply and get on the wait list, we encourage them to complete the admissions requirements first. Then we tell them to take some of the required general education courses while they are waiting.

“Many applicants plug away at one or two classes a semester. But when their name comes up on the list, some are not quite ready. So they defer their admission. They can do that only once while they are on the wait list. When they defer, they move the next person up in line,” explained Velarde. “Wait lists have always been a bit unpredictable. We have to base the wait time on the number of people on the list. In reality, we have found it is not as long as they assume.”

How Do You Know If Nursing Is Right For You?

Five years ago, WCC nursing faculty made the Basic Nursing Assistant Skills class a prerequisite for admission into the WCC Registered Nursing program. This state-certified class prepares students for employment in a variety of health care settings, from nursing homes to hospitals, as a Certified Nurse Aide (CNA). In addition to teaching the basics of direct patient care, the nursing assistant class provides a real world experience that can help students decide whether nursing is the right career for them.

“We were finding students who were academically good,” Velarde said, “but during the practical or clinical portion of the program we would hear, ‘This is not for me.’ We decided it was important that they come into our nursing classroom with some of these basic skills. But the bigger piece was providing them with an opportunity to determine if nursing was really what they wanted to do.”

Start Preparing Now For Graduation

Velarde advises students in the program and on the wait list to take advantage now of opportunities that will make them more employable when they graduate. For example:

  • Move computer training up on your list of skills
  • Gain valuable work experience as a part-time nursing assistant

“Job opportunities are cyclical,” Velarde said. “Right now it is taking a little longer than it has in the past to hire new nursing grads. Part of it is the economy. And for various reasons, many nurses approaching retirement age are working longer.

“If you possess some health care experience, even as a health care assistant, it is going to be a plus for you when you seek a job after graduation. Nurse managers are going to look for people with both patient care and technology experience.”

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