SKYCTC’s Nursing Program Takes Steps to Increase the Next Generation of Nurses | SKYCTC

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SKYCTC’s Nursing Program Takes Steps to Increase the Next Generation of Nurses

Nursing students working with a patient at bedside

by Sara Hook | Mar 2024 Good News Exchange Magazine

Nurses are some of the most important members of our society. They work in hospitals, doctor’s offices, clinics, schools, prisons, and even homes. Without them, the health care system would be less effective and be able to reach fewer people. More nurses will always be needed, and Bowling Green’s Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College (SKYCTC) is working hard to educate and prepare the next generation.

The Allied Health and Nursing Program at SKYCTC Bowling Green began in 2008 as an offshoot of the school’s Glasgow Nursing Program. The first classes were geared toward licensed practical nurses (LPNs), but in 2013, the program began training registered nurses (RNs). Angie Harlan, dean of the program, said while many nursing programs have similar outcomes, Bowling Green offers something unique. The first two semesters focus on LPN content, allowing students to sit for the LPN license exam, while the last two semesters focus on RN content and prepare students to sit for the RN license exam.

“We use what we call an ‘academic/career mobility’ curriculum,” Harlan said. “Because the program uses this curriculum, we can also accept current practicing LPNs to join that program and only have to do the last two semesters.”

Harlan said that if a student successfully completes the first two semesters, they can sit for the LPN license exam even if life forces them to drop out after those two semesters. Those who continue in the program can work as an LPN while still in school and working toward their RN license, and those LPNs already in the workforce can more easily return to school for more training.

Those nurses are in high demand, and the nursing program has stepped up to meet that need. Whereas in the past, the Bowling Green campus would take a new class every other year, it has recently increased its enrollment to accommodate a full class every other year and a smaller class in between. The result is an enrollment that has nearly doubled: 62 students are set to graduate this December, which Harlan said is the biggest graduating class to date.

The Allied Health and Nursing Program has also become more active in local high schools to help students prepare for their nursing path.

“If they can take their prerequisite courses that are required to get into the nursing program while they’re in high school, that allows them to apply directly to our programs coming out of high school so they can begin the program sooner,” Harlan said. “If they begin the program sooner, then they finish earlier, thus entering the workforce quicker.”

High school students can also come to SKYCTC for Future Health Care Hero camps in the spring, where they experience all of the Allied Health programs, from radiography and respiratory programs to paramedic programs. This kind of camp also allows students to see the wide variety of career options for a nurse once they have their general nursing degree.

“There’s always so many opportunities with nursing. You can work with geriatrics, you can work with newborns, you can work with mental health patients, you can work with maternity patients, you can go into teaching,” Harlan said. “A person has many different opportunities with a nursing degree.”

Expanding a nursing program like this is hard work because it requires more than just nursing faculty. Nursing students have to go to clinicals for hands-on experience, so the program must partner with hospitals and medical centers for that clinical space. While the Future Health Care Hero Camp is new, and the initiative’s effects are unclear, Harlan said they are seeing some changes.

“We’re just now starting to see an increase in high school students’ interest in taking those prerequisite courses in high school,” Harlan said. “We’re also starting to see some high school graduates being accepted to the nursing programs upon graduation.”

Those students will be the future of nursing. In Bowling Green, that future is looking bright. GN