SJVC’s newest campus in Santa Maria introduces Vocational Nursing program
Licensed Vocational Nursing (LVN) is a growing career choice, as the need for skilled medical personnel accelerates to meet increased numbers of patients needing care. SJVC’s new Santa Maria campus on California’s central coast was quick to include the Vocational Nursing program among its other accelerated medical, business and technical programs.
Vocational Nursing program leadership is key and was quickly and expertly filled by Amanda Kirkendoll, who as VN Program Director has the perfect balance of education, work experience and teaching acumen to guide her faculty, staff and students toward their greatest career success.
What made you feel like a match to the Vocational Nursing Program Director position at SJVC’s new campus?
My leadership style is to be open and provide clear communication to the program faculty and VN students. I’ve been an instructor and I’ve worked with physicians and educated patients on how to manage their chronic diseases.
I will always let them (faculty, students) know that I’m here if they’re struggling or need assistance. I will stand up for them and support them.
The Vocational Nursing program has gotten a lot of attention and enrollments are brisk. Why are so many choosing SJVC’s VN program?
The fact that they (VN graduates) earn their Associate’s degree is a big advantage. And the short timeline (as few as 15-months) means they can get through the program quickly. Then they look at the reputation of SJVC’s VN program and that positive reputation made many of them choose the program.
How did your education and teaching experience prepare you to lead the VN program?
I’ve always wanted to teach, and my mom was a teacher. When I was in middle school, I would come in and help teach her kindergarteners. In college I would help other students and they would tell me that I explained things in a way that was easier for them to understand.
I graduated high school at seventeen, got my Bachelor of Science degree at twenty and my Master’s degree in Nursing education in 2016. I was pregnant with my son Austin (now 9 years old) during the last term of the Masters course and did my thesis with a newborn.
I’ve always been very independent and driven. I bought my house and my car before I was thirty.
I hope to use what I’ve learned and accomplished to give students the comfort and support they need to succeed. I don’t want them to feel alone. I want them to know that we are a team, and they are not in this by themselves.
What do VN students seem to enjoy most in class?
We try to make laboratory experiences interactive and fun – but comprehensive. Students are very engaged, motivated and enjoy their time in the skills lab. They tell us they’ve never had this much fun in lab.
We use mannequins – two ‘adults’, two ‘children’ and one hi-fidelity adult. It talks, using press-downs. You can listen to its lungs, heart and stomach. Students can insert a catheter into the urethra (bladder) to get a urine return, just as you would in a real person. We put yellow pigment into water to simulate urine. It is very close to a real-life experience, and students are surprised at how realistic the mannequins are and how real-to-life the skills they perform are.
What is one of the most important aspects of successful classroom learning?
Our instructors are what make our (VN) program. We have such committed and wonderful faculty. And they do this because they really love teaching and interacting with the students.
We work together, but they do great things on their own. They care about their students’ education and go above and beyond what they need to do.
We had a student who was really overwhelmed by everything. She had not used an iPad or e-book before. Our instructor stayed with her after class, did a schedule for her, showed her how to use the technology and helped her plan assignments. After that the student felt much more prepared, less anxious and is doing well in the course. We worked together to support this student with individual attention. They are not alone.
What is your best advice for a struggling student?
We have all hit hurdles in our lives and it’s how to respond to them that is important, that tells you what kind of person you are. I try to teach students how to best respond to any challenge: Stop, think and develop a plan. Don’t just react.
What should your students expect from a nursing career and the training it takes to get there?
We tell our VN students that this is going to be different from any other course they’ve taken. Nursing is a difficult job, and the workload is significant. When caring for someone, you have to use critical thinking and judgement. We really focus on helping students develop those two skills. The knowledge alone is not going to make you a good nurse. In other areas there’s only one right answer to a question, but in nursing it is more abstract. That have to sharpen their intuition.
How do you help your students best prepare for their first nursing position?
Although we are new to this area, we already have really good relationships with clinical sites where we do our students’ clinical rotations. We have contracts with 19-medical facilities for clinical rotations, and it’s a natural evolution for them to become extern sites. Some have already asked about that potential.
The campus has only been in this area for about a year, but SJVC has a very positive image and word is getting around very quickly.
How do you handle the stresses of your responsibilities for the Vocational Nursing program?
It’s always a little stressful and chaotic, but the kind of person I am I like things to be perfect and good. I want our students to have a good experience. It’s worth it when you see how excited they are in classes or in clinicals when they say they finally ‘got it’, or they have so much fun performing a new skill.
What replenishes your spirit and energy for the great work you do and support you give?
We (Cody, Emmett-5, Abygail-5, and Austin-9) have a big yard and chickens. I like to bring fresh eggs and produce to the campus for everyone to share!
Our RN to BSN program is a Bachelors degree completion option for Registered Nurses.