a closer look at valencia’s nursing program

7725816912_f1ed8c870f_bDuring the tour for City of Life, there was one word used repeatedly in describing Valencia’s nursing program: intense. However, there was one word used more often: passion.

The nursing, generic track at Valencia is a limited-access program. Upon graduation, students are eligible to take the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX-RN) to become registered nurses. Students can also continue on as a junior at any Florida public university to complete a bachelor’s degree in nursing. The courses in this track are progressive in nature, with one course building on the preceding course.

Here is a look at the areas of study:

  • Nursing I – fundamentals
  • Nursing II – applying what is learned in a hospital setting
  • Nursing III – women’s health, ob/gyn and pediatrics
  • Nursing IV – advanced health, intensive care unit (ICU), preventative care unit (PCU)
  • Nursing V – a hybrid of online and face-to-face interaction, management, leadership and pharmacology

In Nursing VI, students demonstrate their abilities to independently perform Valencia’s nursing program educational outcomes in a variety of patient care settings. This is a practicum course, done in the hospital working directly with a registered nurse. In Nursing II through V, students get to choose their clinical sites each semester, working in varied specialties – cardiac, gastrointestinal, neurology, surgery, etc. Through these semesters, a student can hone in on what their interest is and by the time they reach Nursing VI, they usually are in the facility and area they hope to be hired in. This experience can be compared to the more traditional internships done in teaching, business and other fields.

Students also must take a pharmacology and clinical decision making course which addresses the use of critical thinking in making clinical decisions related to pharmacology.

There is much more learning going on beyond those fundamentals. Dr. Louise Pitts, retired Valencia dean of health sciences, explains that in addition to the science of nursing, the ‘what to do when,’ the art of nursing, communication and caring, is also being taught. She shares that students are learning how to be a nurse holistically in life, not just in a clinical setting.

Dr. Pitts admits that it is a hard program, probably one of the more difficult ones you can enter into in college. But there is a plethora of opportunity for these students once they graduate. Not just in the area they choose to work – pediatrics, cardiology, women’s health, etc. – but also in the setting – doctor’s office, hospital, etc. And nurses can continue their education and go on to administration, and even back to the field of education to teach.

Deb Spaulding, senior instructional assistant for Valencia’s nursing program, agrees. “I would have never guessed thirty years ago that there would be so many opportunities. Nursing opens this door and then there are these little trails that you can take to go on and do all kinds of things. And you will know if you really love it because it will come naturally to you.”

It is also a field that has an excellent placement rate. With a nursing degree, you will find a job. Dr. Pitts has never known of a nursing graduate who wanted a job and could not get one within three to four months after graduation.

Students learn in rooms like these, with simulators and set up just like a hospital setting.

Students learn in rooms like these, with simulators and set up just like a hospital.

Another thing that sets the nursing program apart from other areas is the real-life experience early in the program. When you choose the healthcare field, by the second semester you are getting actual experience in a hospital setting. Up to ten students per faculty member work directly on-site, seeing and laying hands on patients. Students can also work with a registered nurse who is an employee at the facility.

Simulation is an important tool in teaching nurses. This ranges from simple mannequins to simulators that can breathe and make cardiac and bowel sounds. Valencia’s nursing program is currently in the process of upgrading these, offering an experience that is identical to a human experiencing a medical condition. Valencia nursing students practice with babies who can burp, adults whose stomachs come apart and have pads exactly at the anatomical places to give injections. Everything at the bed side is just like it would be in a real hospital so there is not a culture shock when students leave the lab and are at the facilities. Feedback from students and faculty help to keep these techniques and learning methods up to date and new things are incorporated frequently to make the experiences as realistic as possible.

Valencia’s nursing program also relies on tutors. They are an invaluable tool to student success and instructors find that students are more likely to open up and work through a problem with a tutor because they are peers. Nicole Witek is currently a nursing tutor and hopes to work in women’s health. She shares that the nursing program is not easy, but feels that nursing faculty provide so many things that will lead to success. “They give us the foundation and the resources, you come with the motivation and the passion and they will teach you.”

Echoes Deb, “As long as you have the desire to learn, we can teach you.”

And Valencia’s nursing students have a consistently high pass rate for the NCLEX-RN. It was something that Deb noticed even 30 years ago, that Valencia graduates seemed better prepared to sit for the exam. And it still holds true today, Valencia’s 4th quarter NCLEX-RN pass rate was 100 percent.

According to the 2012-13 program guide, the current estimated total cost for the nursing, generic track program is $10,000. This includes tuition, special course fees and associated expenses such as background check, immunizations, uniforms and certifications. This total does not include textbooks, which can be costly for this program. For Nursing I alone, books can run between $721 and $1600, depending on the costs for brand new books.

Realizing these costs can be a hindrance, Valencia Foundation is happy to be able to offer a number of scholarship opportunities for nursing students, such as the Dr. Sara Page Scholarship. Dr. Sara Kerr Page was a career nurse who was a nursing instructor at Valencia for several years before her death in 1985 after a valiant battle with scleroderma. She inspired many to continue the tradition of compassionate nursing and the scholarship was established in 1986 through the generosity of her many friends and relatives.

Other scholarships include the Adelina O. Parker Scholarship in Nursing, Central Florida Kidney Centers Inc. Scholarship, Connie Kay Gwizdala Memorial Nursing Scholarship, Florida Hospital Kissimmee Auxiliary Scholarship, Health Education Technologies Scholarship, John S. and Carolyn T. Lord Scholarship and more. Students need only to fill out one application to be screened for these and hundreds of other scholarship opportunities. Students can submit a scholarship application online here.

The foundation also subsidizes the cost for the NCLEX-RN exam for Valencia nursing students, saving them a total cost of $404.

Nursing is truly a calling, and nurses are invaluable to our community. We are so proud of the nursing program at Valencia and are honored to be able to help fund the education of these special men and women.

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