SJVC’s RN Program Trains Quality Nursing Professionals to Serve Our Communities
Registered Nursing (RN) is a diverse and rewarding career with few other careers offering the same advantages. Registered Nurses are able to earn high salaries, can choose to work in a wide range of specialties, and perhaps most importantly, makes a significant impact on people’s lives through the care they provide. Nurses are there when a baby takes its first breath and when an elderly patient takes his last. No other profession offers so much diversity and opportunity to serve within the community and around the world today.
San Joaquin Valley College’s RN Program is poised to help meet that need. Martha Keough, RN Program Director of the Ontario and Visalia campuses took a few moments to share her thoughts:
How do Registered Nurses (RNs) impact patient care?
“We are the heart of nursing. It is not just about taking care of someone’s body, we engrain in our students the attributes of compassion, kindness, and integrity. This is as important as learning the medical care and processes of nursing. A successful nurse is not just about taking care of somebody, it is about how you relate to people. It is the ability to help someone feel comfortable with you taking care of them in their most vulnerable moments.”
How do those interested in a nursing career find Registered Nursing programs, including SJVC’s RN Program at the Visalia and Ontario campuses and what are some things they should consider when applying?
“The easiest way is to search online through the Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) website at https://www.rn.ca.gov/education/rnprograms . This website lists the approved nursing colleges within the state of California with links to each. Many of our students are referred through coworkers, friends, and family, and/or the school’s reputation in the community.
Enrolling into a nursing program can be challenging, as schools have a wide variety of preadmission criteria that must be met prior to entry. For the RN Program at SJVC, we encourage applicants to complete their general education courses either through a community college or through SJVC, apply early to the program, study for the ATI TEAS-RN preadmission exam, and be prepared to commit to their program course of studies which are designed to prepare them for both RN licensure and their professional nursing careers.”
What accreditations/approvals does SJVC’s RN Program have?
“SJVC’s RN Program is approved by the Department of Consumer Affairs, the California Board of Registered Nursing (CA-BRN) and SJVC holds dual institutional accreditations through WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) and the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges/Western Association of Schools and Colleges (ACCJC/WASC), an institutional accrediting body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the U.S. Department of Education.”
What makes SJVC’s Registered Nursing Program stand out to prospective RN Students?
“SJVC’s RN Program has a long history and strong reputation in the Visalia and Ontario communities. For the Visalia campus, we have a long-term connection with local hospitals such as Kaweah Delta District Hospital (KDDH), which collaborate with us by offering quality clinical experiences for our students. Also, they often hire our graduates once they complete the RN Program and become a licensed RN.
It is difficult to be accepted into a nursing school in the Southern California area, so Ontario’s students are often willing to drive from long distances just to be accepted into a quality program like ours. Many of the Ontario students make the commitment to drive 1-2 hours each way to come to school from places as far away as Indio, Los Angeles, Ventura and even Big Bear. This above and beyond commitment has paid off as most of these graduates were quickly hired into the hospitals throughout their communities as well.
Many who are looking into our RN program are already working in the medical field or at a hospital as CNAs, LVNs, Psych Techs’ RTs and EMTs and are now seeking to expand their careers. Often, these graduates, are promoted into new RN roles after upon graduation and obtaining their RN licensure.
In addition to earning an Associate of Science degree, we prepare students to successfully pass their NCLEX licensure exam (the National Council Licensure Exam) which is required to become a licensed Registered Nurse.”
As RN Program Director for both campuses, what is your primary role?
“Working both in the hospital and nursing education systems for many years, I understand the dynamics and what is required to provide a high quality, healthy nursing program. A few years back, I was approached with the opportunity to work as the Director for SJVC’s generic RN and LVN-RN Program. I decided to come out of retirement and work alongside the nursing team to further develop the RN Program and help it grow into a program where students would receive a quality education that would give them a strong foundation on which to grow their nursing careers.
Nursing school can be very stressful and challenging for students as there is a lot of material to learn and apply in a very short time. Sometimes, I have to meet with a student who may be struggling in school. My approach has always been, ‘Let’s figure out how we can help you to move forward’. Once, having difficulty getting through to a student who was struggling, I finally wrote on a sticky note ‘Just learn and grow’. When she graduated, she brought me back that note that she had laminated. She told me that she sometimes looked at it several times a day. It is always important to find out what is meaningful to each person and connect with them wherever they are.”
What kind of support does the RN Program provide its students?
“The nursing faculty and team at SJVC are committed to supporting our students in a wide variety of ways. One of the support resources offered is the Student Success Program (SSP). This is a group workshop often led by the lead faculty that provides further review of recent materials learned, group tutoring, and additional support to students. Often more challenging concepts that the group (as a whole) may be struggling are reviewed and discussed in SSP. Students with grades of a ‘B’ or below, are required to attend as this helps them work to reduce the risk of falling too low with their grades which can place them at risk for failing a course. All students are welcome and often attend even if they are doing well in their studies. Faculty also set aside time for one-on-one tutoring and will customize their support to a student’s specific needs or weaknesses.
As a team, we continually encourage our students to study and grow because nursing school is hard, academic integrity is important, and grades are earned, not given. We also remind our students that they were accepted above many others (for the RN Program) because we know they have what it takes to be successful. As a team, we have a reputation for going above and beyond to support our students. Many have commented that they are more than just a number in the class… We know their names, and treat them with, fairness, compassion, and kindness.”
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your RN Program and campus life?
“When COVID-19 happened, we had to learn a whole new way to continue providing a quality education for the RN Students. We shifted to a remote distance learning platform, and quickly adapted to teaching classes online. As we had a cohort starting a couple weeks after the lockdown, we even adapted to holding our New Student Orientation online. We set in place additional support resources as well to encourage students to stay focused during their 1st and last months of their programs and adjust to this new way of learning.
Although classes are still being taught remotely, students are now returning to campus in small groups for their hands-on skills lab and simulation experiences, and they have been able to return to most of their clinical experiences in the hospital setting. We continue to maintain COVID guidelines such as masks and social distancing and are working on getting back into classrooms full time.”
What is a turning point in the education process of your RN Students?
“The RN Pinning Ceremony is a wonderful turning point for students as this is when we celebrate and recognize a graduate’s passage from being a nursing student, graduating nursing school, and preparing to enter their chosen profession as a soon-to-be Registered Nurse. It is a very touching, meaningful ceremony for both students and faculty and is powerful to see these graduates move successfully out of the realm of SJVC and into the broader world by taking their NCLEX exam and becoming professional Registered Nurses prepared to serve their communities.”
Is there one great satisfaction that you get from by helping SJVC’s nursing students become successful Registered Nurses?
Yes, it is wonderful to see/hear of our graduates working in so many of the hospitals and nursing fields throughout our communities and/or moving forward in their next set of educational goals. I remember their struggles as students… To see and hear how much they have grown and are contributing to nursing and to people’s lives is a blessing to me, and it is what keeps us going as faculty and as a team. As they say, ‘It takes a village!’”
Our RN to BSN program is a Bachelors degree completion option for Registered Nurses.