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June 10, 2018

Big demand for nurses means plenty of perks for grads

Practical nursing students work on a patient simulator at JCCC’s Olathe Health Education Center (OHEC)

Amy Wharton always knew she wanted to be a nurse. But it wasn’t until she enrolled in Johnson County Community College’s Practical Nurse program that she saw all of the career possibilities available to her.

“The clinical sites gave us the opportunity to see what we might do and the skills to do it,” Wharton said of her practical nurse (PN) education from JCCC. “Working in long-term care centers helped us understand daily medical issues, especially for geriatric patients. Others sites, like those through KU Medical Center, gave us experience in a doctor’s office setting and practice giving injections like flu shots.”

As she prepared to graduate from the 10-month certification program, Wharton received several job offers. Once she receives her license, she has decided to take one of the jobs in Lawrence, where she lives. Eventually, she plans to pursue her registered nurse (RN) degree and work in labor and delivery at a hospital.

Providing nurses across the metro

Christina Rudacille, Director of JCCC’s PN program, said she is contacted all the time by hospitals and long-term care facilities looking for nurses. The demand for LPNs (practical nurses who have received their license after getting their certification) in the Kansas City area is expected to increase by nearly 10 percent over the next decade. Currently, LPNs make up almost a quarter of the nurses in the state of Kansas.

To help address the nursing shortage, metro area facilities are paying more per hour and providing bonuses for nurses willing to work the evening shift. They also are offering incentives such as extra paid time off, ability for nurses to set their own schedules, tuition reimbursement and student loan payoff for a multiyear commitment. 

Partnerships with facilities such as Olathe Medical Center and KU Medical Center, as well as many care facilities, give JCCC students the opportunity to learn the hands-on and problem-solving skills they will need as an LPN.

There’s another benefit to these partnerships. “As our students do their clinical training at a facility,” Rudacille said, “staff see them in action and may use it as an opportunity to recruit an impressive student before they graduate. Obviously, that gives the student some job security, but it also helps a facility know they’re getting a high-quality, well-trained employee.”

JCCC problem-solvers in big demand

Samantha Bowlin is the Director of Nursing at Good Samaritan Society in Olathe, a long-term acute care facility that serves patients who can’t stay in the hospital but aren’t yet ready to go home. During the 21 years she has worked at Good Samaritan, she estimates about one-third of their new hires have been JCCC grads.

“They seem to have a solid head on their shoulders and aren’t easily overwhelmed,” Bowlin said, “and they come in comfortable being hands-on since they’ve had the practice.”

One of the qualities Bowlin and other nurse hiring managers want is the ability to solve problems. “I want to know how they’re going to react in certain situations,” she said. “If they have three things happening all at once, I want to know how they’re going to prioritize and approach patient care.”

Since JCCC PNs do some of their clinical work at Good Samaritan, Bowlin gets to see a student’s critical-thinking skills firsthand.

First line of patient care

LPNs typically provide the greatest amount of direct patient care among medical practitioners. They are in big demand in long-term care and long-term acute care (more serious) facilities, rehabilitation centers, home healthcare and clinics.

LPNs at a long-term care facility serve approximately 20 residents at a time, administering medication, providing wound care, inserting and managing an IV when necessary and interacting with a patient’s family members. LPNs also need to have strong computer skills for all of the record keeping involved in patient care.

According to Rudacille, one of the most valuable tasks PNs can perform is the visual assessment of patients. “Picking up on changes in behavior – even minute ones – is important to understanding what’s going on with a patient.”

JCCC’s Practical Nurse program has a 93.88 percent pass rate for the national licensing exam, administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing and approved by the Kansas Board of Nursing. The program is always looking to improve its curriculum to meet changing demands in the medical field.

For example, one of biggest changes is the addition of an IV therapy certification to the PN certification. Curriculum also is undergoing an overhaul, with a new program launching in 2019, based on input from the advisory council and Kansas Council of Practical Nursing Educators (KCPNE).

A healthy future in nursing

If you’d like to take charge of your future and you think practical nursing might be for you, take a look at your career options. JCCC is also one of the few Practical Nurse programs in the state that offers an evening-weekend program for those who work.

For more information about the admission requirements, contact Christina Rudacille at 913-469-2383.