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Nursing cohorts on the fast track
Photos and Story by James Hill
Local hospitals now have a pathway to get employees training they need to become nurses and to fill a critical need.
The PCC nursing program launched a cohort program of 18 students last summer. This program is a collaboration between the college and the Oregon Health Career Center, the Oregon State Hospital, Tuality Hospital, Willamette Falls Medical Center and Kaiser-Permanente.
The students, who are separate from the regular nursing students, are going through an accelerated program that is scheduled to finish in December 2008. Most of them are medical assistants from the partner hospitals. They attend classes at the Sylvania Campus Thursday through Saturday and the curriculum is designed around their work schedules.
"In talking with these hospitals they said that they had employees who were ready to go into the program and couldn’t get in," said Claudia Michel, PCC nursing director. "The hospitals need to get their people through the program."
The PCC nursing program could get a shot in the arm if the college finalizes plans for a bond measure in November 2008. If passed, the bond could help the crowded program serve more students and better combat a nursing shortage in the health care industry by expanding the program to the Rock Creek Campus.
In the interim, the cohort program is another way that PCC can give back to these hospitals, which typically provide instructors and clinical sites to the nursing program. At the end of the cohort program, the students will have an associate of applied science degree in nursing and then must pass a state board exam to be a nurse.
"They are good employees who they know will be hired," Michel added. "They are 18 really good students; they went through the pathology class and were the first ones to all pass since 1990."
Chong Vang is taking advantage of the program. Vang, 43, works as a mental health therapist for the Oregon State Hospital in Portland. For the past nine years, he has helped clients meet criteria for their discharge from the hospital.
"It’s a challenging job, but from time to time I am able to make a change in a client’s life," said Vang. "You want them to get better and leave the hospital and not come back. It’s not easy. But to be able to make a change in a person’s life makes me feel good."
Vang left Laos in 1975 due to political unrest after the U.S. withdrew from Vietnam. He said "had to leave or be executed."
Vang is moving ahead with plans to get a master’s degree in the health care field when he’s done at PCC. He has worked on his degree since he started at the hospital, but admits that it has been tough fitting studies into a busy work schedule. He said he found it difficult getting into highly competitive nursing schools so the cohort program at PCC was an opportunity for him to achieve his goal.
"I want to be a nurse," Vang said. "I had taken all of the prerequisite classes already which made me a good candidate. The classes here are very good."