In a world where most things have been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, graduation will actually come two weeks early for 123 Practical Nursing students at Central Louisiana Technical Community College (CLTCC).
Mignonne Ater, Dean of Nursing and Allied Health based at the school’s Ferriday Campus, said the original date for graduation was May 13. “Two weeks may not sound like a lot, but when you are looking for employment it can be significant. We are glad we were able to do this for our students and communities.”
Ater noted that due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Louisiana State Board of Practical Nurse Examiners is issuing temporary licensure for Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) in an effort to bolster the number of healthcare workers available.
“Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a need for LPNs in acute care and especially in long-term care,” Ater said. “On March 13, just before the pandemic restrictions, we had a regional career fair in Alexandria and at that point there was a big demand for LPNs. I do expect that demand is still there.”
Seven of the eight CLTCC campuses offer an LPN program, and of those six had classes set to graduate in mid-May. All six of those campuses – Alexandria, Ferriday, Huey P. Long in Winnfield, Lamar Salter in Leesville, Ward H. Nash-Avoyelles Campus in Cottonport, and Rod Brady in Jena – were able to complete their programs in time for a May 1 graduation.
“We have not reduced any hours or coursework,” Ater noted. “We were able to expedite the program without the need to impact instruction.”
With students not meeting on campus due to restrictions put in place across the state to slow the spread of COVID-19, instruction shifted to online classes and virtual simulations. That shift actually helped open the door for the accelerated timeline. “It just worked out. With the students not being in traditional clinicals and performing approved virtual simulations it provided opportunities to complete by the May 1 date,” Ater said.
“Students are definitely excited about being able to complete early and enter the workforce,” Ater said. With the temporary licensure process, she said students could be working as soon as two weeks after they graduate.
While the graduation date has been moved up, due to current social distancing guidelines a formal graduation ceremony will be postponed. “Normally we would have a pinning ceremony,” Ater said. “That is on hold for now, but we do plan to find a way to celebrate face to face when this pandemic is over.”
“We are very proud of our Practical Nursing students, instructors, and campus leaders for answering the call to serve in this pandemic. These nursing professions are at the heart of Cenla’s essential workforce in the fight against COVID-19,” said Jimmy Sawtelle, CLTCC Chancellor.