Program graduates needed by area health care providers
Arionna Simmons first became interested in a health care career in high school, when she gained Gateway Technical College training to help her to become a nursing assistant.
Fast forward to today and Simmons’ goals still includes a health care career, also helped by Gateway training and equipment. She’s decided to further her nursing education and is a member of the inaugural cohort of Gateway’s revamped 30-credit Practical Nursing program, hoping to earn her diploma and enter the career field in December.
Simmons is taking her classes at the newly opened Lincoln Center for Health Careers on the college’s Racine Campus, a site which offers a mix of traditional classroom education settings with hands-on and technologically advanced simulation equipment that replicates patients and a health care setting.
“I love how Gateway has set up the center,” says Arionna. “I am comfortable there. It’s a great learning environment.”
The center is home to Gateway’s new Practical Nursing diploma program as well as its Nursing associate degree program.
Students in Gateway’s Nursing program already gain the skills to take the state’s LPN licensure exam through their regular coursework, and more than 97 percent do pass. However, students and area employers asked the college for a standalone program that can offer a full range of resources for students who specifically wish to take the LPN exam, said Vicki Coyle, dean of Gateway’s School of Health.
This represents a shift from the past, when educational institutions dialed back their standalone LPN programs. Renee Seymour, Gateway Practical Nursing program director, said there’s a significant need for LPNs locally as well as nationally. “Our advisory council 100 percent supported us bringing back the program,” she said.
Seymour says graduates of the program will have a great opportunity to enter a field with solid wages. Examples of where LPNs work include long-term and assisted living facilities as well as hospice care.
The training setup for the Practical Nursing program differs slightly from the first-year Nursing program, giving LPN students about twice as many opportunities to engage in theory coursework as well as providing program-specific support to help them succeed.
Seymour says the program provides a dual benefit to students, too. Some may prefer to obtain the training to be able to enter the workforce as a licensed practical nurse and stay in that specific career field. Others, such as Simmons, seek to gain the training for an LPN and enter the career field – but also have a goal to return to Gateway at some point to earn their Nursing degree, which would allow them to take the NCLEX exam to become a registered nurse.
“I think this program will help meet the needs for licensed practical nurses in the community, but could also help with the registered nurse shortage, as well,” says Seymour.
Arionna’s thoughts on the center echo what many other students have said. They love the high-tech simulators and training rooms – but they also enjoy the public areas where they can comfortably study for the intense programs housed there.
Micheal Randolph, Gateway School of Health associate dean, said the new center replicates other Gateway health care simulated lab settings.
“The center provides skill as well as simulation rooms. It provides them with an opportunity to address many different situations and procedures so they are comfortable when they have to work with an actual human patient,” says Randolph.
Randolph says simulated labs at Gateway provide a training environment as close as possible to an actual health care facility. “The more they prepare here, the more they are prepared to handle it in real life,” he says.
Those interested in learning more about Gateway’s new Practical Nursing program can go to gtc.edu/practical-nursing