HURON – A joint Registered Nursing (RN) program, with roots that extend back more than four years in the community, saw its first class of graduates receive their pins in a ceremony held Tuesday evening at the Huron College Campus Fine Arts Center’s theater.
The program, a joint endeavor among the Huron Community Campus, Southeast Technical Institute and Huron Medical Center, grew from a meeting held in January of 2015, when several members of the community formed the Huron Nursing Taskforce, to address the loss of the HCC two-year nursing program and how to make the educational opportunity available to those Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) seeking to take the next step.
The program is for licensed practical nurses with 750 hours of experience who wish to earn their associate registered nurse degree. It’s a 12-month hybrid program, which combines online classes through Southeast Tech along with lab and clinicals at Huron Community Campus and local health care facilities.
The program is made possible by the generosity of the Huron Community Foundation, Greater Huron Development Corporation, United Way Heartland Region, SunQuest Healthcare Center, Huron Community Campus, Huron University Foundation, Huron Regional Medical Center and Huron Regional Medical Center Foundation donors.
In January of 2018, South Dakota’s Build Dakota extended scholarships to nursing education and Southeast Tech committed up to 16 Build Dakota scholarships, while several local and area businesses matched the funds to provide full-ride scholarships to their employees in return for a three-year work commitment.
The collaboration is what is needed to increase the number of candidates available for the many open registered nurse positions in the state, said Kristen Possehl, Southeast Tech nursing program director.
Huron Community Campus Executive Director Doug Pietz said he considers himself fortunate among those involved in setting up the program because he gets to see the results every day.
Let’s meet the first graduates of the program.
Caitlin Schoenfelder graduated as a LPN from Southeast Tech in 2015 and spent several months in women’s health before moving back home to Huron. For the past three years she has been employed at the Huron Clinic, while always planning to continue her education to become a RN. “The Huron cohort was the perfect opportunity to expand my knowledge and experience. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s definitely been worth it!” Schoenfelder said.
Denice Landmark decided to become a nurse at the local hospital in Britton, after working there for 15 years as a transcriptionist. She graduated LATI in 2016 and soon after made the decision to complete the LPN to RN program, to broaden the range of services she was able to offer patients. “I feel that learning in nursing never ends and I am looking forward to continuing to learn in this field. I believe this completion of my nursing education has been one of the hardest things I have ever attempted, and I am so grateful to my family for their continued support to help me make this journey,” she said.
Chelsea Davis also earned her LPN degree at Lake Area and worked at Rural Healthcare Clinic and then the nursing home in Highmore. She decided to enroll in the LPN to RN program that was being offered in Huron by Southeast Technical Institute, as the flexible program was going to be the easiest to fit into her family’s busy lifestyle. “With the help of my fiance Taylor, my friends, family, co-workers, and classmates, I did it. I can’t thank you all enough for your support and words of encouragement.”
Bridgette Moeller began her healthcare career as a CNA and med aide at the nursing home in Clark. She received her LPN at LATI in 2017, when she began work at Huron Clinic. “I decided to continue on and obtain my RN degree to expand my skill set and my knowledge in order to better serve the patients I work with,” she said. “After graduation I plan to continue working at Huron Clinic in a RN role.”
Like her fellow graduates, Natalie Terkildsen earned her LPN at Lake Area Tech and she works at SunQuest Healthcare in Huron. “This past year has been challenging,” she said. “I have learned so much information and have directly applied this into my position in geriatrics.”
Mariah Lord has always wanted to be a nurse and when she received her LPN degree, her dream became a reality. An urge to further her education and expand her scope of practice led her to SE Tech, She works at Avera Weskota Memorial Hospital in Wessington Springs and plans to continue her career as an RN. “This last year has been busy and overwhelming, yet exciting and fulfilling,” she said.