LPN to RN: WSCC students take first leg of journey over summer break

Published 4:34 pm Tuesday, August 21, 2018

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While most Walter State Community College students are still enjoying summer break, some of the most dedicated students are just now getting a break from a summer spent reviewing and perfecting nursing skills. Twenty-four licensed practical nurses have completed the summer course and will begin the second year of nursing school when fall semester begins Aug. 27.

The University’s LPN-to-RN Program started soon after the nursing program first offered classes in 1975. Since then, the program has played a key role in both increasing the number of in-demand registered nurses and providing next-step education for licensed practical nurses.

“This program does a great job in meeting the continuing need for registered nurses in our service area,” said Dr. Tony Miksa, president of Walters State.

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“The students come from the Tennessee College of Applied Technology very prepared to enter the second year of training and are often some of our top graduates,” Miksa said.

This summer course is an intensive review of course materials and clinical skills to prepare to enter the second year of Walters State’s registered nursing program.

“Students get such a good foundation at the TCAT. Many of the students have been working in nursing, so they know what they want. They are very motivated and do very well both in class and in clinical training,” said Dr. Cheryl McCall, head of Walters State’s nursing program.

To enroll in the program, licensed practical nurses must have a year of experience unless they enroll directly from TCAT. This year, one student chose to do that.

Gilda Cuberson, of Newport, graduated from TCAT in April and is now in the intensive summer review to start the registered nursing program in the fall.

“I wanted to become a registered nurse because, as an LPN, I was very limited on how you could help patients. I know it’s also good career-wise, so I just wanted to go ahead and do it,” Cuberson said.

Others want to get more experience or need to take care of families before entering the program. Sometimes, nurses wait a while before pursuing the next level of nursing education. Kristy Waddell of Parrottsville worked as an LPN for 17 years.

“I wanted to complete the registered nursing program 17 years ago after I got my LPN. It was too much with raising my family. Now, I’ve got time,” Waddell said. “I am very familiar with many of the skills we are going over now because I’ve done them for so long.”

Many students are like Lindsey Davis of Greeneville, who has worked as an LPN for two years. Davis said she worked long enough to know she loves being a nurse.

“Of course, there’s a big difference in pay and more opportunities for registered nurses. You are also trained to do more for your patients,” said Davis.

Davis hopes to continue her education after Walters State and complete a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

While their nursing hours may provide prior learning credit, LPN-to-RN students still need to take general education classes required for the associate of applied science degree.

“LPN students take three semesters of nursing classes, including this summer semester. We review clinical skills to assess competency. We also cover nursing processes in pediatrics, obstetrics, and mental health,” she said.

When the fall begins, some of these students are at the top of the class.

“The first-year nursing students want to be paired with these students in clinical settings. New nursing students look up to them as mentors,” McCall said.

Some of those students are helped by Tennessee Reconnect, the state’s new financial aid program for adult learners. Tennessee Reconnect pays the tuition for Tennessee residents who do not have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. For more information about Tennessee Reconnect, contact the college’s Student Success Center at 423-318-2337.

Over 5,900 credit and 4,000 non-credit students attend Walters State. The college has campuses in Morristown, Greeneville, Sevierville and Tazewell. It offers over 150 associate degrees and technical certificates. Visit Walters State’s website at ws.edu.

Tennessee’s Community Colleges is a system of 13 colleges offering a high-quality, affordable, convenient and personal education to prepare students to achieve their educational and career goals in two years or less. We offer associates degrees and certificate programs, workforce development programs and transfer pathways to four-year degrees.

For more information, please visit online at tncommunitycolleges.org.

For more information about the Walters State LPN-to-RN Program, call 423-585-6981.