Sikeston R-6 School District's practical nurse program named among top 20 in the state

Saturday, May 27, 2017

SIKESTON -- Sikeston R-6 Practical Nursing Program is among the top 20 best LPN programs in the state.

Sikeston's program was ranked No. 17 and received an overall score of 95.74.

"We are very proud to be recognized as a top 20 LPN program in the state," said Sikeston nursing instructor and registered nurse Tammie Collins.

With roughly 45 Licensed Practical Nurse programs available throughout the state of Missouri, tabulated state-testing scores for the various vocational schools, private nursing schools and community colleges across Missouri and prepared a list of the top 20.

Also making the list were Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center at No. 14 with an overall score of 96.15; and Three Rivers Community College in Kennett at No. 16 with a score of 95.83.

Earning perfect overall scores of 100 were Ozarks Technical Community College-Springfield, No. 1; State Fair Community College-Sedalia, No. 2; and North Central Missouri College-Bethany, No. 3.

"I love our program. It's so much fun," said registered nurse Candace Ellis, coordinator of the Sikeston nursing program.

Sikeston's practical nursing program has a greater than 90 percent pass rate, which, according to Ellis, is phenomenal. Sikeston's practical nursing students often bridge to higher education nursing.

Located in Suite 201 on the second floor of the Sikeston Jaycee Regional Dialysis Center, 135 Plaza Drive, in Sikeston, the program runs from August through June. Students attend four days a week, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

This course for adults 17 and older with a high school diploma or GED consists of 48 weeks or 1,400 hours. The course is designed to give the student a basic knowledge of practical nursing and related subjects and an opportunity to apply this knowledge in a clinical situation.

"We usually take about 100 applicants and can only choose 41 each year," Ellis said.

Sikeston's program will accept applications for the 2018-2019 year beginning Oct. 1 through March 2018.

Ellis estimated 10 to 20 percent of students are from Sikeston with the remaining students from surrounding towns like East Prairie, Charleston, Bloomfield, New Madrid, Dexter and Oran.

"We have students who come over with a bit of education from the health occupations class (offered to high school students through Sikeston Career and Technology Center)," said Collins, who graduated from the Sikeston LPN program and later earned a Master of Science in nursing.

Ellis, who also has a Master of Science in nursing, said she isn't sure if many people in the region know about the program which has been in Sikeston for 60 years.

"We also have people in our program who start out as certified nurse assistants or certified medication technicians, and they can get those through SCTC, but then they see they want to do more and this could possibly be their next step," Ellis said. "We're happy to have those people, and then when they have a little bit of knowledge under their belts, it makes them better peers to teach others."

The instructors teach the theories behind the things they do, Ellis said. In addition to Ellis and Collins, registered nurses Deanna Dial and Nicole Rucker serve as program instructors.

"We teach them the skills to be able to care for somebody else," she said.

Collins said the program has a lot of community support where the students can get their feet wet in different areas of nursing. Sikeston doctor's offices, home health, nursing homes and Missouri Delta Medical Center offer assistance to the program.

"They welcome us with open arms. We've got all kinds of people who love to have our students," Ellis said. "I think we're lucky."

What also helps have a successful program, Collins said, is the program's four instructors have different nursing backgrounds. For example, one has specialized in obstetrics, another in emergency room care, and the other two worked in med surgery.

"We have a well-rounded crew teaching them and we hope that helps with how they do later in life," Ellis said. We teach using stories of our real-life experiences."

There's also a lot of hands-on experience.

"Hands-on experience is great, too. You maybe learn by reading or watching or hearing, but the minute you put your hands on that, that's something you've experience and you usually don't forget it. We do a lot of that here," Ellis said.

Technology and interactive learning are also components of the program.

"We try to do as much as we can to prepare them for the real world," Ellis said. "Hopefully, we're teaching them really good critical thinking skills and they can use that in a real-life emergency."

The Sikeston program's instructors and students said they're happy to be among the top 20 in the state, and the students added they felt like Sikeston's program should be ranked No. 1 in the state.

Jordan Dollins of Blodgett said she was working as a certified nursing assistant, or CNA, at the hospital when she realized she wanted to be a nurse.

"I thought: 'I want to do that,'" Collins recalled. "'I can do that.'"

Collins applied for Sikeston's nursing program and is weeks away from graduating. She plans to bridge to a registered nurse program.

"It's hard but it's worth it. I definitely feel like I've accomplished so much," Dollins said.

Because the class is together so much, they do become like a big family, she said.

"It's definitely been an amazing experience, and I've met so many different people in this program. I'm glad I met each and every one. They've all made an impact as well as the teachers. The teachers have taught us to be competent people and be confident in what we do."

Bailey Halterman of New Madrid is a third-generation family member to attend Sikeston's nursing program. Her grandmother, mother and sister have each graduated from the program.

"I think the most important thing I've learned is to be the type of nurse I want to be and should be," Halterman said. "Our teachers have taught us the correct way and we know the right way to do do things. It's been a very challenging 10 months but I'm thankful for the experience to become a nurse."

Allie Cummins of Oran, president of the class, said she was accepted to other nursing programs but chose to attend Sikeston's.

"I live closer to Cape, but I went to this program because I heard how great the teachers were. I heard it was harder than most programs, but the amount you get out of it is better than anywhere else. It's more fulfilling," Cummins said.

The instructors care, Cummings said.

"They're here to make us great nurses," she added.

Austin Comstock of Canalou, who wants to be a doctor, said he decided to apply for nursing school after talking to a local nurse and reading about the program online.

"I wanted to get my foot in the door. When I got into this program, the difficulty of it made me take a step back and really appreciate the challenge of it," he said.

Comstock said the nursing program is one of the most challenging things he's done in his life.

"But it's been highly rewarding," he said. "I've definitely increased my knowledge and feel like I could save a life if necessary."

With the June 29 graduation merely weeks away, Comstock and his peers are ready for what's in store for them.

"I'm very thankful for the teachers that we have," Comstock said. "I feel like their heart is in the right place, and that's why we are where we're at."

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