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Laying the Cornerstone: Waubonsee Nursing Program Preps Students for Health Care Careers

The faculty of Waubonsee Community College’s Nursing Program bring years of experience and expertise to help students gain the knowledge and skill they need to launch successful nursing careers. Pictured, from left, back row, are Laurel Krueger, Tracy Limbrunner, Lisa Henson and Melinda Finch; front row, Sharon Erickson, Dr. Mary Beth Hutches, Marjie Schoolfield and Pamela Augustine. The Nursing Program has been recognized as Waubonsee’s Student Success: Featured Program for April 2015.

As health care continues to grow and evolve in the 21st Century, the need for skilled practitioners and caregivers will only continue to expand, as well.

And few professionals will serve a more central role in the future of health care than nurses.

For decades, Waubonsee Community College’s Nursing Program has educated generations of nurses to provide our local communities with the best in high quality, skilled, compassionate health care.

For the commitment of Waubonsee’s nursing faculty and the program’s sustained success in educating and placing highly skilled nurses into health care settings near and far amid times of rapid change, Waubonsee Community College is pleased to recognize the faculty and staff of the Waubonsee Nursing Program as this month’s Student Success: Featured Program.

In September 1970, just three years after the college welcomed its first students, Waubonsee Community College, believing quality education is the cornerstone of the professional nurse, admitted its first 56 students into the Nursing Program.

In 1972, Waubonsee awarded its first nursing degrees to 31 students.

Today, 80-100 nurses annually graduate from Waubonsee’s nursing program, adding to the total of more than 2,200 nurses since the program’s inception who have leveraged their Waubonsee education to find their places in hospitals, physicians’ offices and myriad other health care settings across the region and beyond.

“The Waubonsee program is well respected within the community,” said Mary Beth Hutches, Associate Professor of Nursing and Waubonsee Nursing Program Director. “Our community knows that someone who has been educated at Waubonsee is someone they can count on to know what to do and to have the rigorous thought process needed to arrive at the right course of action.”

Waubonsee’s nursing faculty, a roster including Hutches, Assistant Professors Tracy Limbrunner, Marjie Schoolfield and Melinda Finch, and full-time Nursing Instructors Laurel Krueger, Sharon Erickson, Lisa Henson and Pamela Augustine, each bring years of nursing experience and expertise to the classrooms and various other training settings, offering Waubonsee nursing students the guidance they need to not only earn a degree, but launch careers.

The faculty is backed by a team of Nursing Program administrators and staff, including Dr. Jess Toussaint, Dean for Health Professions and Public Service; Michelle Evans, Assistant Dean for Health Professions and Public Service; Secretary Kebra Crafton; Academic Specialist Amanda Lepic; Health Care Programs Secretary Desiree Kitching; and Nursing Lab Specialists Susan Keller and Ann Hahn-Baiyor.

In recent years, the Nursing Program team has led the effort to continue to equip classrooms and instruction for the future.

The program has developed an advisory board, which includes alumni, faculty and administrators from Waubonsee and representatives of hospitals, nursing homes and other health care facilities. Also recently launched was the Waubonsee chapter of Alpha Delta Nu, an honors society for student nurses.

The program has added simulation components to every class, using such devices as the Noelle birthing simulator and “hearing voices” psychiatric care simulators, expanding opportunities for students to experience specialty nursing subjects while still in school.

This superb classroom instruction comes on top of outstanding clinical experience offered to students at the health care facilities that partner with the Waubonsee Nursing Program, including local hospitals Rush-Copley Medical Center and Presence Mercy Medical Center in Aurora, Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital in Geneva and Kishwaukee Community Hospital in DeKalb, as well as such other medical and nursing care facilities and organizations as the Elgin Mental Health Center, Dreyer Medical Clinic, Community Alliance Home Health and the VNA of the Fox Valley, among others.

The college further anticipates building on its tradition of excellence in coming months and years. In April 2015, the college expects to learn the results of a years-long effort to earn accreditation for the Nursing Program from the Accreditation Commission for Education for Nursing (ACEN). Following a site visit in 2014, ACEN granted the program an initial recommendation for accreditation for five years.

ACEN completed its evaluation review in January 2015, and supported the initial recommendation.

ACEN’s Board of Commissioners met in mid-March to consider granting a final accreditation determination. A final determination letter is anticipated within 30 days of that meeting.

All of these steps have led to a program continuously fostering student excellence and success, a track record reflected by real-world results.

Graduates of Waubonsee’s Nursing Program, for instance, regularly perform well on the National Council Licensure Exam, or NCLEX, the national licensing exam required to practice as a Registered Nurse, or RN.

Since 2011, an average of 92 percent of all Waubonsee Nursing Program graduates have passed the NCLEX, clearing the way for them to enter the ranks of working professional nurses.

Many of Waubonsee’s nursing graduates also go on to further their education, earning Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees or more advanced degrees from a number of colleges and universities.

To help students complete that transition, for instance, Waubonsee in 2014 completed an articulation agreement with the University of St. Francis in Joliet, creating an easy, timely and affordable pathway for nursing students to earn bachelor’s degrees, while beginning their nursing education at Waubonsee.

No matter their ultimate career path or destination, graduates of Waubonsee’s Nursing Program can rest assured their Waubonsee education will propel them forward toward their dreams of providing quality, skilled care, in their home communities and beyond.  

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