SHERIDAN – Education remains the key to best preparing nurses for careers in the field. In addition, the more one pursues one’s studies, the more the opportunities multiply in the field of nursing.
Nursing education appears unique in Sheridan County, from high school students receiving industry qualifications before a high school diploma to Sheridan College students working on bachelor’s degrees concurrently with an associate’s degree while working a full-time job they got through connections while learning. Each individual nurses journey takes different turns, but many use the resources available in Sheridan County.
High school offers
Sheridan High School offers 12 career and technical training paths, one of which includes a health care path that leads to dual-credit courses and recognized certificates in the field.
Students, in addition to earning dual credit at SHS and Sheridan College, can work toward receiving a Certificate in Emergency Medical Response, a state-recognized certification. SHS also offers a certified nursing assistant class. At the end of the CNA class, students have the opportunity to take a written CNA state certification test, paving the way for students, if successful, to work as CNAs in the community.
A job at CNA is a great stepping stone to other health care professions and can help students prepare for work in nursing or health care management, said health science professor Traci Eisenman. at SHS, at The Sheridan Press in February, and is excellent for exposing students to the idea of patient care.
Students, before COVID-19 restricted outside visitors, would visit Sheridan Memorial Hospital and do internships as part of the courses offered.
Sheridan College offers many paths students can take to embark on a full-time nursing career. Miranda Cone and Threhaa Knutson, sophomores at Sheridan College, will both graduate with associate degrees in nursing on May 14, but their academic journeys won’t end with a degree in hand. Both women plan to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing through the bridging program available at Sheridan College, where female nursing students take courses for their associate’s and bachelor’s degrees concurrently, speeding up the time it takes to receive a BSN and become a registered nurse.
“It’s a way for Sheridan College to allow you to continue and get your bachelor’s degree,” Cone said. “You can get it as fast or as slow as you want. It is with your own timing.
Cone said some members of the program choose not to take this route, while others will earn their bachelor’s and associate’s degrees simultaneously.
Many students choose this path simply because outside of Wyoming, many healthcare programs will only hire bachelor’s-level RNs. It also provides nurses with RN certifications to move into management and other leadership positions once hired.
Most importantly, it means better care for patients.
“Ultimately, the patient benefits from safer care,” said Nancy Hooge, professor of nursing at Sheridan College.
Hooge said the nursing program sees older students enrolling, choosing nursing as a second or third career option.
In addition to the practical application of information learned in a classroom setting and through Sheridan College’s Simulation Center working with working mannequins, high school and college students can use earned certificates, student status in nursing or acquired skills to obtain internships, work-study, or full-time jobs at many health care facilities in Sheridan County.
Sheridan College’s clinical rotations allow for exposure in the community and other partnerships between school programs and organizations, Hooge said, which is a good reflection of the hiring percentages of students coming out of Sheridan College programs. Hooge estimated nearly, if not exactly, 100% of students graduate with job offers if that’s the student’s next step.
“Having a presence in the community is also a big thing, being part of Sheridan College,” Cone said.
One such collaborative partnership is with the Sheridan Veterans Affairs Health Care System. Marie Donegan-Horton, nurse educator at Sheridan VA, prior to COVID-19 coordinated group rotations for clinics with the Sheridan College program. The pandemic has halted much of that in-person training, but this year the Sheridan VA was able to reintegrate a nursing student from Sheridan College into its on-campus urgent care facility.
Formerly an educator at Sheridan College, Donegan-Horton’s goal with every student connection is to advance the occupation she loves.
“We are enthusiastic participants in the state of community health,” Donegan-Horton said. “(Sheridan VA staff) really want to see the next generation of nurses succeed and be the best they can be.”
Ashleigh Snoozy joined The Sheridan Press in October 2016 as a reporter before taking on the role of editor in November 2018. She is originally from Colorado and graduated from Biola University in Los Angeles.