SEDALIA—When Amy Pangburn decided she wanted to become a nurse, she knew it wouldn’t be easy. As a single mom, she had to work fulltime; she couldn’t imagine juggling work, nursing school, homework, and family time. Then she found State Fair Community College’s new 13-month night/weekend Practical Nursing (PN) program.
“We started in January 2014 and went to class Thursday and Friday evenings—generally from 2-9 p.m.—and all day Saturday,” said Pangburn. “The schedule worked great for me. I worked 12-hour shifts Sunday, Monday and Tuesday at my job at the hospital; did homework Wednesday; and went to class Thursday, Friday and Saturday.”
Pangburn, 37, graduated in May; she was one of eight students in the first night/weekend program. All eight passed their licensure boards on the first attempt. She and five others entered SFCC’s Year 2 Associate Degree Nursing program in August and will graduate in May 2016 to become registered nurses.
“The night/weekend PN program is wonderful,” said Pangburn. “I can’t stress enough how important it is. Had it not been available, I would not have been able to get my practical nursing degree when I did. You can’t go in half-heartedly; you have to jump in with both feet. It takes time, and it’s intense. But it’s worth it. And the night/weekend instructor, Shari Nelson, is amazing. She genuinely cares about all her students.”
Nelson said the availability of this format for the Practical Nursing program makes it even easier for anyone who wants to become a nurse.
“The night/weekend format is a great pathway to a nursing career,” she said. “It opens the door for those who have full-time jobs to still pursue their education.”
The program on the Sedalia campus was made possible by a $705,000 commitment from the Sylvia G. Thompson Charitable Trust in 2013, which provides financial support for two faculty positions and one-half of an administrative assistant position for the program until 2018.
SFCC President Dr. Joanna Anderson considers the gift crucial and farsighted.
“This donation allowed us to create the night/weekend program, which we could not otherwise have done,” said Anderson. “We can’t thank the trustees of the Sylvia G. Thompson Charitable Trust enough for their continued generosity. It is making a real difference in the lives of many hard-working individuals in our community, both those who have completed the program and those who are currently enrolled.”
Tara Weber, director of the Practical Nursing program, said there are four students in the current night/weekend program; they began in January and will graduate in May 2016.
One of those students, Kelly Lada, said it is the perfect opportunity for her to earn her practical nursing degree, work part-time and still have time with her two-year-old son.
“I’m a military wife; my husband is stationed at Whiteman AFB,” said Lada. “I have a bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in art, as well as a Pharmacy Tech degree. I really enjoy that, but it still wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do. When I was pregnant, my nurses were so caring and helpful; they inspired me to try nursing.”
She enrolled in SFCC’s daytime PN program, but was nervous about the five-day-a-week schedule. When she heard about the night/weekend program, it was exactly what she needed.
“It’s everything I hoped for and more,” said Lada, 27. “I love the way the classes are structured. We started clinicals after 16 weeks and began seeing patients. It’s an exciting hands-on learning environment. The instructors are amazing; they’re helpful and flexible with scheduling. We’re adults, and they treat us that way; we all work, and the majority are parents.”
She believes the night/weekend program is an excellent way to ease into the nursing field and wishes more people knew it existed.
“I hear of people who are discouraged about nursing and afraid it’s too hard and that they’ll fail,” she said. “Being in class just three days a week, you still have time for yourself, and you’re expanding your knowledge and doing something better for your family.”
Lada said she would personally like to thank the trustees of the Thompson Charitable Trust for their donation, and feels she speaks on behalf of her entire class.
“Without this program, none of us would have this career,” she said.
Weber said the next night/weekend PN class, which has room for 24 students, will begin in June 2016, and applications are being taken now. With a slightly different structure, it will include some online and hybrid courses, and students will be on track to graduate in June 2017.
“The trustees of the Sylvia G. Thompson Charitable Trust, Adam Fischer, Jim Mathewson and Bill Shumake, have made a tremendous commitment to our Practical Nursing program beginning with a $670,000 gift in 2008 that allowed SFCC to hire more nursing staff and double the size of the program,” said Anderson. “Their latest commitment that expands the program to the night/weekend format is ideal for working adults.”
Fischer said, “We are enthused about the SFCC Nursing program and look forward to hiring some of these students. The expanded program helps ensure there will be a pool of educated employees dedicated to the health care profession and meets our need in furthering the purpose of the trust. It also gives us the opportunity to have a positive impact on the lives of the students and their families. It is a win-win situation.”
The trust owns the Sylvia G. Thompson Residence Center, 3333 W. 10th St., and is building a new facility at the corner of 10th Street and Mitchell Road in Sedalia. The E. W. Thompson Health & Rehab Center is scheduled to open in March 2016 and will provide Medicare-certified rehabilitative care for local residents, along with 36 rooms dedicated to dementia care.
In recognition of the gift in 2008, the multimedia conference center in the Heckart Science and Allied Health Center was named the Thompson Conference Center. The Thompson Hills Investment Corp. also donated $125,000 toward construction of the Heckart Science and Allied Health Center in 2005.
Anderson hopes other potential donors see what a difference SFCC programs continue to make in the lives of students and in meeting the critical need for quality trained nurses for the college’s 14-country service area.
“We want to get the word out about this unique partnership that is expanding an important program and perhaps motivate others to contribute in similar ways at SFCC,” she said. “Making a positive impact on the lives of students and their families is an extraordinary feeling.”