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New program trains practical nurses

The first class in South Central Area Health Education Center’s practical nursing school is past the halfway point of the 15-month program.

Eleven students from Lynchburg to Danville and around the Altavista/Hurt area are eyeing graduation on Aug. 24 and then taking their state licensing exam. Classes started in May 2011.
“I feel we are very blessed to have a school of practical nursing in a rural area,” said Regina Kennedy, executive director of the school, located in the English Construction building in Hurt. She said schools are typically in more urban areas.
The school of practical nursing is one of several programs offered at South Central Area Health Education Center, which started in 1993. Coincidentally, it opened in the English Construction building, relocated to Altavista and returned to the same building in 2010.
The center also has an eight-week nurse aide certificate program, which has graduated more than 600 since starting in 2003. It offers an as-needed medication aide certificate class, along with training in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation for churches, businesses and groups in the community. The school also provides instruction in using an automated defibrillator.
The practical nursing program includes lecture and clinical work at the Hurt site and at nursing homes, hospitals and day care centers in the area.
When a student graduates and passes the exam to be a licensed practical nurse, she is able to work in nursing homes, doctor offices, some hospitals and assisted living centers. Duties include giving all medications, taking vital signs and assessing patients.
“They can work just about anywhere they want,” said Mary Williamson, director of the practical nursing program. She said their licenses will be good in several states.
She said graduates who pass the licensing exam won’t have a problem getting a job. She said nurses are always needed to do bedside care.
Williamson said being a licensed practical nurse is also a step towards becoming a registered nurse. That was the path Williamson followed.
Tanya Pritchett said she got into the South Central program because she could complete the work in 15 months and there were no prerequisites. From Dry Fork in Pittsylvania County, she was a receptionist at Chatham Family Medical Center.
“I just like helping people. It was a great opportunity to advance my career.” Pritchett plans to take the next step and become a registered nurse.
Shannon Worley liked that the program was close to home. She lives in Hurt.
Worley said she had wanted to be a nurse for a long time. She felt she could handle the 15 months and still take care of her three children.
“It’s a sacrifice when you have a family and you’re not working full-time. But it’s worth it in the end,” Pritchett said.

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posted in: National, news, Employer News, Virginia
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