SHERIDAN — Education remains key when best preparing nurses for careers in the field. Even more, the further one pursues education, the more opportunities abound for them in the nursing field.
Nursing education looks unique in Sheridan County, from high-schoolers receiving industry qualifications before a high school diploma to Sheridan College students working on bachelor’s degrees simultaneously with an associate degree all while working a full-time job they obtained through connections while learning. Each journey of individual nurses takes different turns, but utilize several resources available in Sheridan County.
High school offerings
Sheridan High School offers 12 career and technical education course pathways, one of which includes a health care track that results in dual-credit classes and certificates recognized in the field.
Students, in addition to earning dual credit at SHS and Sheridan College, can work to receive an Emergency Medical Response Certificate, a state-recognized certification. SHS also offers a certified nursing assistant class. At the end of the CNA class, students have the option to take a written CNA state certification test, paving a path for students, if they pass, to work as a CNA in the community.
A CNA job is a great stepping stone to other health care professions and can help students prepare for nursing or health care management work, SHS health science teacher Traci Eisenman told The Sheridan Press in February, and is great at exposing students to the idea of patient care.
Students, before COVID-19 restricted outside visitors, would tour Sheridan Memorial Hospital and serve in internships through classes offered.
Sheridan College offers many pathways students may take on a journey toward a career as a full-time nurse. Second-year Sheridan College students Miranda Cone and Threhaa Knutson will both graduate May 14 with their associate degree in nursing, but their educational journeys won’t stop with a diploma in hand. Both women anticipate earning bachelors of science in nursing through the bridge program available at Sheridan College, where nursing students simultaneously take classes for their associate and bachelor’s degrees, expediting the time it takes to receive a BSN and become a registered nurse.
“That’s one way that Sheridan College allows you to keep going and get your bachelor’s degree,” Cone said. “You can get it as fast or as slow as you’d like to. It’s with your own timing.”
Cone said some in the program choose not to take that route, while others will graduate with their bachelor’s and associate degrees simultaneously.
Several students choose this route simply because, outside of Wyoming, several health care programs will only hire bachelor’s degree-level RNs. It also provides nurses with RN certifications to pursue management and other leadership positions once hired.
Most of all, though, it means better care for patients.
“Ultimately, the patient benefits because of safer care,” Sheridan College nursing faculty Nancy Hooge said.
Hooge said the nursing program is seeing older students enrolling, choosing nursing as a second or third career option.
In addition to practical application of information learned in a classroom setting and through Sheridan College’s simulation center working with operable dummies, students in high school and collegiate levels may utilize earned certificates, nursing student status or acquired skills to obtain internships, work studies or full- time jobs at numerous health care locations throughout Sheridan County.
Sheridan College clinical rotations allow exposure into the community and further partnerships between school programs and organizations, Hooge said, which reflects well in hiring percentages of students coming out of Sheridan College programs. Hooge estimated close to, if not exactly, 100% of students graduating with job offers if that is the student’s next step.
“Having a presence in the community is a big thing, too, being a part of Sheridan College,” Cone said.
One of those collaborative partnerships lies with the Sheridan Veterans Affairs Health Care System. Marie Donegan-Horton, nurse educator at the Sheridan VA, before COVID-19, coordinated group rotations for clinicals with the Sheridan College program. The pandemic halted a lot of that in-person training, but this year the Sheridan VA was able to reincorporate a Sheridan College nursing student into its urgent care facility on campus.
Formerly a Sheridan College educator, Donegan-Horton’s goal with each student connection is furthering the occupation she loves.
“We’re eager participants in the health status of the community,” Donegan-Horton said. “(Staff at the Sheridan VA) definitely wants to see the next generation of nurses succeed and be the best they can be.”
Ashleigh Snoozy joined The Sheridan Press in October 2016 as a reporter before moving into the managing editor position in November 2018. She is a native of Colorado and graduated from Biola University in Los Angeles.