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NW-SCC celebrates nursing program’s 50th anniversary

Northwest-Shoals Community College celebrated the 50th anniversary of the college’s nursing program on the Phil Campbell campus Nov. 18 with a public reception and program.

The nursing program started in 1972 on the Phil Campbell campus to help alleviate a shortage of registered nurses in northwest Alabama. It has grown from an inaugural class of 30 to almost 100 students in recent years. Getting its start as a career mobility program for licensed practical nurses, it provided an expedited option for progressing to that next logical career step.

“It is indeed a historic day,” commended Rep. Jamie Kiel, who was among speakers for the event. “Fifty years on this campus serving the rural part of Alabama, which was the intent of the community college system – to serve rural students in rural Alabama, those who could not (otherwise) obtain higher education because of their location in the state.”

For Sandi Barnes, 1979 alum of NW-SCC and retired vice president of patient services at Helen Keller Hospital, the nursing program is something she describes as critical to her success, providing “the strong foundation that successful nurses need.”

“I have experienced the amazing opportunities of many facets of the healthcare industry all within our community from clinical nursing to hospital administration through the foundation I received from Northwest-Shoals,” she added.

NW-SCC President Dr. Jeff Goodwin said the nursing program has made and continues to make a positive impact on the lives of a great many people in northwest Alabama. He spoke about the hybrid nursing program the college will be implementing to provide a greater variety of learning options to better meet the needs of students.

“As someone who’s actually graduated from a hybrid program, I think this will be a game-changer for a lot of people who can’t come as traditional college students would at night and on the weekend in order to earn a nursing degree,” explained Goodwin.

Nursing instructor Donna Jaynes said offering a hybrid option is just one of the many ways the program has adapted over the years, changing to better meet both the healthcare needs of the community and the needs of the students. She explained the college’s nursing program was first accredited in 1974 and has continued accreditation standing.

“The program has grown over the past 50 years from a humble beginning. I’m proud to say we have more applicants than we have seats for, and that is an amazing thing,” she added.

“The program remains rigorous, as our graduates can tell you. The nursing faculty and staff are as dedicated as they have ever been to providing high-quality education to the students and to putting highly trained, compassionate nurses into the workforce,” added Jaynes.

She explained graduates of the program continue to have “plenty of job offers and opportunities” and are “highly sought after.” “We are so proud of our heritage, and we’re looking forward to the next 50 years.”

Katie Smith, director of advancement, spoke about the challenges students face to complete their studies, especially financial hardships. Because the degree is demanding in terms of workload, many students are unable to both work and go to school

Smith explained the program is setting up a separate fund to help NW-SCC nursing students meet their basic needs, and she welcomed donations.

“We are looking for support to be able to continue these endeavors,” she added. “We know this is not a need that’s likely to go away anytime soon. Sometimes, this kind of assistance is the only thing keeping a student from dropping out of school.”

Following the program, guests had the opportunity to take a guided tour of the simulation lab. In this room are sophisticated mannequins called high fidelity simulators to aid students in practicing patient interactions and procedures.