All the ‘Right Stuff’ is needed for a career in Vocational Nursing
SJVC’s Vocational Nursing Program Director, Mari Gordon, has good advice for anyone considering a career in nursing: “You have to have the passion and compassion for caring for other human beings.”
Her own nursing career commitment and trajectory surprised no one. She lined up her education goals with one objective: “I love being bedside with patients and being part of the nursing profession was my passion.” She spent several years balancing education and training with practical experience to make that dream a reality.
Mari earned a Registered Nursing degree, Associate’s degree and Bachelor’s degree as she worked for over 20-years in local hospitals and clinics. In 1996 she married Mike Gordon, while she worked as a maternity nurse at a local hospital.
In 2000 changes at home moved her focus away from continued education and onto financial security to better provide for her young daughter, Morgan. She set aside her plans to become a Nurse Practitioner and replaced them with full-time employment. Mari applied for a faculty position at SJVC’s Visalia campus Vocational Nursing program. And a star was born.
How does your new Program Director position of the Vocational Nursing program fit your commitment to nursing and fulfill your career ideals?
In these 21-years at SJVC I have moved from clinical instruction to teaching theory and now Assistant VN Program Director. As a clinical instructor I would be at clinical sites with students training them at bedside and assessing their skills. Teaching theory I have a whole class instead of 10-15 in medical facility clinical rotations. But Theory was more my niche.
Now I am part of a team focused on overall VN student success.
What has been one of your major accomplishments so far?
I had not been in this role very long when we began the re-accreditation process for the VN program. It is a rigorous process that we undertake every four years. It absorbed an enormous amount of time and paperwork. Once again, we were accredited by the Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians. It was a Big First for me.
My big goal – our goal – is for VN students to successfully pass their VN program and their NCLEX-PN (National Council Licensure Exam). Our VN students are eligible to take this exam once they successfully complete their program.
How does SJVC support their students in the vocational nursing program?
We watch for signs of student struggle. From the first weeks of the program, we have early intervention. We sit, talk and figure out what their (VN student) strategy for success is going to be. We give them a plan for how to study effectively. We don’t wait for students to get to a place they might not be able to come back from. Often, they just need a little help.
What would you like for each of your Vocational Nursing program students to know about their chosen field?
It is a stable profession and you do get paid well; but if that is the rationale for all you have to put into a program to be licensed, you’re not going to be happy in your job. Passion. That should be the primary reason you are here. You won’t be fulfilled being in a field that you don’t have that feeling for.
We can teach all these students the skills they need to be successful as a nurse but caring and compassion…. we can’t teach that. That has to come from within them.
And I believe patients know the difference between someone who just goes through the motions and someone who genuinely cares and has the heart for what they do.
How important are on-site clinical rotations for VN students?
Clinical rotations give students hands-on experience in an actual medical environment and are necessary to meet the requirements for licensure. VN students will have clinical rotations in all four terms of their program.
VN students provide patient care to adults and children who have a variety of medical and nursing needs. Students perform patient data collection and recording, injections, Foley catheter insertions and wound care, among many other nursing skills.
A SJVC clinical instructor is with our students at the site at all times.
What is one of your most fulfilling moments working with VN students?
Sometimes a student, who because of circumstances in their personal life, has to drop out of the VN program mid-way. That is not someone who failed, but someone who had life intrude on their plans. It could end their dream to become a LVN (Licensed Vocational Nurse). But. sometimes they are able to get things straight in their life and make an appeal (to the college) to re-enroll.
They did not give up on their dream. They chose to keep going, keep reaching and wanting to make that dream come true. That is really inspirational to me.
What inspires you, motivates you to do your job well?
My work ethic comes from my Mom and Dad (Maggie and Milton) who sometimes worked three jobs to provide for us (six kids). They taught us not to rely on anybody else, but to go to college and get a good education.
My motivation comes from having been a nurse and the feeling that I was doing something to help someone else. There was great reward in that. And although I’m not at the bedside any longer, my great rewards right now are watching our students learn and be successful and knowing that I was a part of that. The rewards are very similar; I’m just helping in a different way. I can’t imagine being in a better position than imparting that excitement and passion for being a nurse to our students.
Our RN to BSN program is a Bachelors degree completion option for Registered Nurses.