List growing for SLCC nursing program

Students interested in South Louisiana Community College’s new, two-year registered nurse program could find out later this fall semester if they will be in the first class of 40 students who could start classes in March.

Laurie Fontenot, SLCC dean of nursing, allied health and safety, said the college has a list of about 300 people interested in enrolling, but the selection process can’t start until faculty members are hired.

The Louisiana Board of Nursing requires that the college have its faculty members in place to create the criteria for enrollment, she said.

“They will have input on criteria. They’ll be part of the team that selects the students,” Fontenot said.

Four full-time faculty members — registered nurses with a master of science degrees in nursing — are needed. So far, only one full-time faculty member has been hired, while as of Friday, job offers were made to two more, Fontenot said.

“We’re still taking applications for the final position,” she said.

The state nursing board also requires faculty to be on staff for at least six months before the program may begin — which sets a potential start date for classes in March, Fontenot said.

Meanwhile, interested students were advised to take the prerequisite courses needed in areas such as algebra, anatomy, and psychology to be successful in the program. It prepares students for an associate’s degree and licensure as a registered nurse.

Rachel Sam, a licensed practical nurse for the past 13 years, said the new program is an outlet to more job opportunities in a field she loves. Sam works in administration at a Lafayette nursing home and is interested in continuing her nursing education.

“As an RN, I want to do hands-on, patient care,” Sam said.

Sam is taking the prerequisite courses in the hopes of getting into the program in the spring; however, she said having to wait a year may not be such a bad thing.

“It’s a new program and will be a learning experience for students and the college. A year may give them time to work on it,” she said.

During that time, Sam said, the college could offer an accelerated RN program for LPNs.

Fontenot said the college will likely allow LPNs to enroll in the second year of the program because they have the skill set and knowledge that will be covered in the program’s first year. “They could come in and finish in one year,” she said.

After years in the pharmaceutical industry, Tammy Westcott said, she wanted a career change.

Westcott, a Patterson native, also moved back to Acadiana from California last year to be closer to her family.

Westcott lacks the prerequisites to apply for the upcoming nursing program session — and won’t have the option to apply again until 2015. The setback sent her to explore other programs.

“I wanted to do the fast track,” Westcott said. “I’m in my mid-40s. I want to be a registered nurse. I want to work. My ultimate career goal is to work in an emergency room setting.”

While Westcott said her preference is the fast-track program, she’s also checking out the bachelor of science in nursing program at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

“I’m in the beginning stages of it all, trying to decide what is the correct path to take,” Westcott said.

Fontenot said the SLCC program graduates will have the option to continue their education in a one-year, bachelor’s track program at UL-Lafayette and the college is in talks with Northwestern State University in Natchitoches to give graduates a similar option.

Community support for the new nursing program — $500,000 total from Lafayette’s major hospitals and the Lafayette Economic Development Authority — helped its launch.

Fontenot said the college would need four more nursing faculty members for each new enrollment class and more clinical spots in a market that also trains nursing students for both the university and LSU at Eunice.