Nurses have always been an intrinsic part of medical care, and the pandemic has highlighted their value on the healthcare front line. More are needed, and colleges across the nation are working to train nurses who will face the medical landscape being molded by COVID-19.
In Santa Barbara County, Allan Hancock College has been training nurses for 70 years, most of whom come from the area and stay close to serve the community.
“A majority of our nursing students stay local after graduation,” said Allan Hancock College Superintendent/President Kevin G. Walthers, Ph.D.. “Last year we graduated 29 nurses, and 28 were hired by Marian Regional Medical Center.”
Graduates have also been hired at Arroyo Grande Community Hospital and Lompoc Valley Medical Center.
Progress Through Programs
The Allan Hancock College health sciences department offers nursing programs in Certified Nursing Assisting, Licensed Vocational Nursing, and Registered Nursing. The programs build on each other through the ladder concept, meaning students can move their way from one program to the next, stopping when they want.
They can then go to work and, if they like, return to school to continue through the next program.
The programs are state-accredited, Dean of Academic Affairs Margaret Lau said. The CNA program currently has 41 students, and the LVN program has 33 in its three-term program that runs from January to December.
The RN program will start again in January and run through spring and fall, with a summer break.
“It’s a very full program,” Lau said. “We have an overabundance of people on the waitlist.”
Even now, Allan Hancock College students are continuing with their training. They take theory education classes remotely and will earn clinical hours when hospitals and assisted living centers re-open to medical students.
The pandemic has been challenging for students, but they have been moving forward, LVN Program Director Eileen Donnelly said.
“I am quite proud of our nursing students,” she said. “They seem to show a lot of empathy and sympathy. A lot of the students come from very diverse backgrounds. There are a lot of working moms or dads trying to do multiple roles while in the program.
“I’m sure most nurses are empathetic and caring, but the students we see here at Hancock seem especially caring.”
Earn a Bachelor’s Degree
After completing the RN program, students don’t have to stop, as this past spring, Allan Hancock College partnered with California State University Channel Islands to support RN graduates going into a Bachelor of Science Nursing program, Lau said.
“It is a way that our graduating RNs can go immediately and apply,” she said. “Those that are accepted can get their bachelor’s in less than two years.”
The support from community members has been invaluable. For example, Marian Regional Medical Center gives $300,000 a year to support the nursing program, Walthers said.
“It allows us to have two cohorts moving through at a time,” he said.
Additionally, the annual December graduation ceremony brings people together.
“It’s a really emotional event for me,” Lau said. “It’s humbling to see our entire Marian Theater filled with the family members of our graduates, nursing professionals, and community members celebrating.”
For more information about the nursing programs at Allan Hancock College, visit HancockCollege.edu.