Celebrating nurses in 2020 and beyond

There are some things in life that are meant to be. The designation of 2020 as the Year of the Nurse is one of those things. Even before the coronavirus pandemic struck in early 2020, this year was designated as the Year of the Nurse by the World Health Organization in honor of the 200th birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.

Nightingale revolutionized the nursing world with a focus on the patient experience and delivering medical care to the highest standards. While medical technology has advanced considerably over the past two centuries, what has remained constant is the need for high quality-health care in our communities, and for local people to have access to education programs in healthcare fields.

The need for local nurses

Providing our region with top-notch nursing programs close to home was so important to our community that when Lorain County Community College was founded in 1963, nursing degrees were among the first programs offered. Over the years, thousands of local residents have earned nursing credentials from LCCC, including the associate degree in nursing (RN), Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) and State Tested Nursing Assistant (STNA). Our LCCC programs are delivered by world-class faculty members who are experts in their field, including 60% of LCCC full-time nursing faculty members with a doctoral degree.

Additionally, LCCC’s University Partnership delivers advanced degrees in nursing from Ohio universities, including Ohio University (RN to BSN), Youngstown State University (bachelor’s in allied health), and Western Governor’s University (RN to BSN, and several options for master’s degrees in nursing). These programs from LCCC and the University Partnership are tailored to meet the needs of local hospitals and healthcare organizations, leading to a high employment rate for LCCC graduates.

In fact, in just the last 10 years, more than 2,400 people have earned nursing degrees from LCCC. And because 85% of all LCCC graduates live and work in the region, the students trained on our campus become the nurses serving our community. Each day, LCCC nursing alumni answer the call to help their friends, family, neighbors and strangers navigate some of the most challenging health issues. This is true every year, but it is especially true this year, in the Year of the Nurse and the year of COVID-19. Here is a video we created to thank our healthcare workers and first responders and show support during these trying times.

Nursing students adjust to changes

As the pandemic rages on, nurses have continually sacrificed themselves in service of others. And it’s the nurses who are coming up in the field – those who are taking on their training with the knowledge of what lies ahead – for whom I feel the utmost gratitude. To see our current healthcare crisis and feel compelled to step up to the challenge is truly remarkable.

Not only do LCCC’s nursing students face a career path that is evolving daily, they also are navigating an education landscape that changed overnight due to the pandemic. In the face of these changes and so many more, our LCCC nursing students have doubled down on their resolve to help others through their education in the nursing field.

Danielle Wagner was in her final semester of the LCCC nursing program when the pandemic hit Ohio full force in March. Despite changes to the delivery of her classes, Danielle felt an urge stronger than ever to complete her degree and help others during this trying time. Danielle graduated in May 2020 with her associate degree in nursing as part of the largest graduating class in the history of LCCC.  She passed her state exams soon after and is now working in her dream career at University Hospitals’ main campus in the neuro ICU stepdown unit. Earning her nursing degree at LCCC was challenging, but she says her professors pushed her to be the best and she is now applying those skills to help patients every day.

Danielle Wagner shows off her graduation cap
Danielle Wagner earned her associate degree in nursing in May 2020

Danielle was one of 91 nursing students to earn their associate degree in May 2020. The graduating class also included Yecenia Rivera, who followed in the footsteps of her son, Anthony, who earned his nursing degree in December 2019. With decades of experience at various levels of nursing, Yecenia was excited to continue her life’s passion of caring for others. Beginning a healthcare career during a pandemic wasn’t a concern for Anthony. In fact, he says he’s thriving as an RN at Mercy Hospital in Lorain, where he has been working since March.

Yecenia Rivera and her son Anthony in their graduation caps and gowns
Yecenia Rivera and her son, Anthony

Current LCCC nursing student Carys Trubach also said the pandemic has shown her she chose the right career. Carys is on track to graduate in December and she can’t wait to get to work. She aspires to work in oncology, bringing relief and care to cancer patients. Thinking about her career, she says, “I look forward to helping patients each day through their hardest days.”

Carys Trubach in a graduation robe
LCCC nursing student Carys Trubach

Students like Danielle, Yecenia, Anthony and Carys have great role models throughout their education. The LCCC nursing faculty has worked around the clock to maintain the highest standards while observing COVID regulations for class sizes and social distancing. Our faculty members have proven to be role models outside the classroom, as well. In March, LCCC paramedic instructor and LCCC nursing graduate AJ Gray left the safety of her home and traveled to New York City, where she worked for two weeks in a field hospital helping COVID-19 patients.

As this unforgettable year nears a close, we look to the future as nearly 90 new RNs will graduate from LCCC in December. These resilient students will enter the workforce well prepared and more determined than ever to make a positive impact in our community. The future is unknown, but the stories of these brave women and men give me hope. I know that no matter what challenges lie ahead, our community will continue to rely on skilled nurses to keep us healthy and safe – and LCCC will continue to provide the education that prepares those nurses for their careers.

To learn more about how Northeast Ohio is celebrating the Year of the Nurse, visit the web page hosted by Case Western Reserve University. The page includes a new blog posted each day from a local nurse, including many LCCC graduates and current students.