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Need for nurses means jobs here

Wallace Community College-Selma reported that 92 percent of their nursing program graduates find work immediately after graduation. -- Illustration

Editor’s note: The recent recession has left in its wake a tough job market, leaving some hopeful workers wondering where the jobs are. This is the second in a series examining what fields are growing and who, at the very least, are taking applications.

If you have been sick before or been inside an emergency room in excruciating pain, you know how important a qualified nurse is.

According to health care career statistics, there are more than 2.9 million registered nurses, 140 nurse practitioners and 70,000 clinical nurse specialists in the U.S. alone, and a career as a certified nursing assistant, licensed practical nurse or registered nurse, may be worth pursuing.

Wallace Community College Selma offers registered nurse and licensed practical nurse programs through its health sciences division. Becky Casey, director for the RN program ,said the programs have grown since last year.

“Because of the economy,” Casey said. “We’ve found people who have a business degree come back for nursing. It seems everyone wants to be a nurse right now.”

Wallace received 300 applications in 2010 for the registered nurse program alone. Casey said there’s been an increase in public interest.

“I get about 25 calls a day, just from my office,” Casey said. “People are calling from different states about it because they know they can get a job.”

Casey also said in 2010 there were 42 RN graduates and 50 LPN graduates. Casey added Wallace students continue to excel in the field.

“We had a 94 percent pass rate above the state and national average on Alabama State Board exams,” Casey said. “In addition, 92 percent of our nurses are employed after graduation.”

Donitha Griffin, WCCS dean of students, said the nursing school places in the top 5 percentile among Alabama community colleges and in the top 10 percent group among two-to-four year colleges in passing Alabama Board of Nursing exams.

With the high demand in nursing, Wallace added an online program to complement the traditional classroom, which Casey said is convenient for students.

“You can go online for lectures and then come to the classroom to take your tests,” Casey said. “In addition, for those who work during the day, we can schedule times for you to do clinicals (hospital) at night.”

Wallace president, James M. Mitchell, said the nursing field has a variety of options and the school’s increase in technology only helps its popularity.

“We have one of the top programs (nursing) in the state and I think technology has a role to play in Wallace’s increased enrollment there,” Mitchell said. “Technology is critical, and we have to train our students to compete with not just nurses here, but nurses all over the world. Also, nurses have incentives—they can pick and choose what area they want to work in or what hours or days they want to work.”

Wallace plans to partner with schools in Perry County to ensure high school students get nursing experience. Mitchell added his interest in pursuing other partnerships with Dallas, Lowndes, Wilcox, Autauga counties and Selma City Schools.

“”We’re trying to create more access for students through online and night programs,” Mitchell said. “By working with Perry County, students can get certified as an LPN right out of high school. Students will have a leg up.”

Casey said students who enter the nursing program, have a chance to use technology to help them in medical situations they may never experience on their own.

“Dr. Mitchell has supported our efforts in purchasing simulated labs and models,” Casey said. “We even have a simulated medication cart where students can learn how to give medicine to patients.”

Casey encourages any student who is interested in nursing to apply through student services.

“Talk to (academic) counselors there and get an application,” Casey said. “If you’re a high school student, think about taking college science courses over the summer to help your chances of getting into the nursing program as well.”