By Shawn Nowlin
Over the last decade, Virginia Western Community College (VWCC) has graduated more than 450 students from its nursing program. After years of studying, in addition to the unprecedented challenges caused by the pandemic, approximately 60 students recently finished the program and will officially graduate on May 13.
Said Nursing Club President and VWCC student Kara Gerenser, “I do not want to do something just for the money. I want to feel good going to work and coming home and I feel like taking care of people in the hospital when they are in their worst moments and making them feel a little bit better. I just, it makes my heart warm.”
According to a Census Bureau American Community Survey, there are approximately 22 million workers currently in the healthcare industry, equating to roughly 14 percent of all U.S. workers.
Multiple types of nurses exist: Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), Registered Nurse (RN) and Family Nurse Practitioner (FPN), just to name a few. By 2029, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the nursing field will grow by 40 percent.
Before one graduates from the VWCC Nursing Program they receive the necessary skills required to jumpstart their respective careers, explained Coordinator of Development Carole Tarrant.
Lauren Hayward, the director of nursing, further explained, “I’ve never seen the level of stress that we’ve seen in the past, I would say 18 months. And how did they handle it? With a lot of resilience, persistence and teamwork.”
Throughout the pandemic, healthcare workers have made tremendous sacrifices, both personally and professionally. With all the care given to others, nurses often forget to take care of themselves. While it wasn’t always easy, Ashley Smith, a 2020 graduate, is thankful for the journey she endured.
“If it wasn’t for my older sister, I probably would not have graduated. I often confided in her. She kept telling me the same thing over and over again, ‘The Ashley in 2025 will be proud and appreciative of the hard work that today’s Ashely is doing.’ I didn’t quite understand what she was saying at the moment, but looking back, she was absolutely right.”
Many graduates of the 2022 VWCC Nursing Program have already accepted a job as a healthcare worker, a fact that warms Tarrant’s heart.
“Nursing education at Virginia Western began 50 years ago – fall 1972, to be exact, four years after Virginia Western opened its doors,” she said. “The nursing program typically takes students two years to complete after they have been admitted. This is a competitive admissions program, and students must complete prerequisites – so, all told, it can take three-plus years to finish.