Nursing Program Offers Opportunities

El Vaquero News Editor

The recent high demand for nurses in the nation has encouraged more college students to choose a career in nursing because of the guarantee of employment and ample wages. The college’s own nursing program is ahead of the game, boasting a very high success rate in the state licensing exam and a large number of applicants as well as graduates every semester.

“There is a critical shortage of nurses in the state of California,” said Cynthia Dorroh, Associate Dean of Allied Health. “This translates into guaranteed career opportunities.”
GCC’s nursing program had a hundred percent success rate in the national licensing examination last month; all 26 of its fall 2005 graduates passed the exam.

The four-semester program, which has existed for 52 years, has maintained a passing rate exceeding the state benchmark of 80 percent for many years, and sees its Registered Nurse (RN) graduates starting out at $50,000 to $55,000 a year.

Hundreds of students apply for the program, according to Dorroh. “We take in 24 to 36 at the beginning of each semester, and will take more [students] in the fall.”

Because of the large number of applicants, Dorroh said that it is “very difficult” to get into the program. Applicants are accepted through a formal selection process based on GPA, with an emphasis on the student’s performance in science and English courses.

They also need to complete the core prerequisites, which include human anatomy, physiology, microbiology and psychology, among others, before applying. If the students are unable to make it the first time because of their GPA, they are given a chance to remediate and apply again.

“It is very hard to get into the program due to the competition that you’re up against,” said Marie Valerio, one of the applicants who were accepted into the nursing program this semester. “For my prerequisites, I had to maintain my GPA in order to meet the requirements. I’m still so grateful that I made it considering the competition.”

Another advantage of the nursing program is that it is one of the few colleges that offer an evening and weekend program.

“They were the first college that offered evening-weekend classes at the time I was studying,” said Maryllis Romero, a nursing program alumna who graduated in 2003 and is now a registered nurse. “I had a [day] job then, and it was easier for my schedule.”

Romero attests to the difficulty of getting into the program. “During that time [I was at GCC], they used a lottery system,” said Romero. “Getting in was by chance. You could be a bad student and still get in.” This lottery system has been changed to the more academic GPA-based system last year.

However, the program also helps students improve their chances of getting in by providing nursing workshops and tutoring/mentoring services for those still taking prerequisites, and even for those who have already been accepted.

Students are given the best possible training once they are accepted. “There’s wonderful faculty and strong college support,” said Dorroh. “We also have a solid curriculum.”

Working in hospitals is part of the students’ formal training. “The [students] spend two days a week in classes on campus, and two days in hospitals doing nursing practice.” Dorroh said. “We go to 10 to 14 different places.” These hospitals include the Glendale Memorial, Kaiser Sunset, Kaiser Panorama, Verdugo Hills and Huntington medical centers.

The students are divided into groups and assigned to different units of the hospital such as the psychiatric, obstetric and pediatric units under their instructor’s supervision. They are able to work closely with doctors, provide basic care for patients and are mentored by registered nurses.

Romero said that the nursing courses require hard work. “I found myself studying a lot,” she said. “There’s a lot of books to read, and you spend a lot of time on the computer. I can say that I did more work than students in other majors.”

Nonetheless, Romero also said that the teachers are “very supportive. I especially remember Karen Wharton, my first and second semester nursing teacher. She was very approachable and gave a lot of support on [nursing] theory.”

Valerio added that the courses require “a tremendous amount of memorization and studying at the library” in order to understand concepts taught in class.

The program maintains small class sizes, limiting 12 students to each instructor in order to guarantee supportive supervision. They are also given laboratory practice on campus in the Nursing Resource Lab, located in the San Fernando complex. The Lab boasts state-of-the-art technology, including several computers with updated software and a clinical simulator, in which several dummy “patients” hooked up to various hospital equipment are sprawled on beds for students to practice on.

All the hard work will eventually be worth it, however, since RN graduates have a wide variety of choices in advancement opportunities and are guaranteed jobs.

Some students, according to Dorroh, are even hired by hospitals as student workers, and many receive multiple job offers even before they graduate and are hired immediately after graduation.

“When I graduated, I was hired by Kaiser right away,” said Romero. She made $27 an hour when she started, working 12-hour shifts three days a week.

“I think [GCC] gave me a solid training ground to be out there by myself,” said Romero. “The experience really built up my learning so that I can now be a respected nurse.”