SKYCTC prepares nurses to serve
Story by LUIS CARRASCO – In SCRTC Community Network Magazine
CAREER OF COMPASSION
Jalen Shirley didn’t know he would follow in his mother’s footsteps and become a nurse, but when his grandmother became ill when he was in high school he realized that’s exactly what he wanted to do.
“Just seeing how my mother cared for her, how passionate she was about it, I just kind of told myself, ‘I would really like to do that,’” he says. “It opened my eyes to wanting to care for people.”
Once he made up his mind, Shirley couldn’t wait to be a nurse. However, his first semester studying at Western Kentucky University was not what he expected. “It had nothing to do with nursing, and I didn’t want to waste time,” he says. “So, I went and applied at SKYCTC.”
The nursing program he chose at Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College was welcoming but demanding.
Shirley, 22, graduated in 2018 and now works at T.J. Regional Health and at Glenview Health and Rehab in Glasgow.
Keeping that bar high has allowed the nursing programs at SKYCTC to be recognized as some of the very best in the state. The school’s registered nursing programs were recently honored for their academic quality. The Bowling Green campus was ranked No. 3, while the Glasgow campus was ranked No. 1 in Kentucky by RegisteredNursing.org. The ranking is based on NCLEX-RN pass rates, the national exam graduates must take to ea Passing the exam is critical, but being a good nurse takes more than being qualified on paper, says Dr. Angie Harlan, the dean of allied health and nursing at SKYCTC. “We have high expectations for our students,” she says. “Not only are they able to pass that exam, but they’re also good employees and have a strong clinical background as well.”
Like Shirley, Harlan credits the instructors for the program’s achievement. “We would not have received that recognition if it wasn’t for the faculty that’s teaching students day in and day out and helping make sure they’re successful and staying on target,” she says.
Nursing has a long history at SKYCTC. While the two-year associate degree registered nursing program started in 2008 in Glasgow and in 2013 in Bowling Green, the first graduating class for Glasgow’s Licensed Practical Nursing Program dates back to 1958.
Harlan has been at SKYCTC for 22 years, starting as a nursing instructor. When she became dean in 2019, she says she felt the sense of responsibility for maintaining the school’s tradition of excellence established by those who came before her. While the quality of the education SKYCTC students receive hasn’t changed, time has not stood still at the school. “When I started, there were four or five nursing faculty members. Now we have 17,” Harlan says. “But the biggest change has probably been the age of the students.”
Older students in their 20s and 30s used to be the norm, Harlan says, but now the school is seeing a lot more people enroll straight out of high school. Male students are also much more common today. There has also been a change in technology — not only in what nurses use in the field, but what the college uses to teach its students.
Remote learning was spurred on by the COVID-19 pandemic, as students remained off campus for a time. Most classes took place virtually over Microsoft Teams, while small groups of students took turns meeting on campus for hands-on labs. Now, students take standardized tests online. “We’ve also started doing a lot of our clinical documentation online,” Harlan says. “Before, we did it by paper and pencil.”
IT COMES DOWN TO CARING AND COMMITMENT
A lot has changed since that first graduating class in 1958, but one thing remains the same — being a nurse isn’t easy. “You have to be caring. I mean, that’s one thing they can’t teach you in school, they can’t teach you how to care about people,” says Courtney Estes, 28. “When you’re at work, you have to leave all your issues at the door and focus on your patients.”
Estes, a SKYCTC program graduate, was a surgical technologist when she decided to pursue her associate degree in nursing. The program is tough, she says, but that ensures those who become nurses are committed to what they’re doing. “You have people’s lives in your hands, so you need to be 100% dedicated,” she says. “The job can be stressful, but helping somebody and seeing that is totally worth it. I feel like it’s what I’m supposed to do.”
Asked what she would say to someone who is considering studying nursing, Estes has a ready answer. “I would say that if you’re caring and you’re compassionate and you want to make a difference in people’s lives, you should absolutely do it,” she says. “And there are so many options with nursing.”
Harlan agrees. “It’s a great job with so many potential paths. I started out as a floor nurse and ended up as an educator,” she says. “And there’s just the reward of knowing that at the end of the day you’ve actually done something that made a difference in people’s lives.” rn a license to practice nursing.