Gila Community College has some good news and some bad news for students wanting to earn an associate of applied science degree in nursing.
The good news is that the degree program launches spring 2006 for students who have met their prerequisites.
The bad news is those who haven't fulfilled their prerequisites will have to wait until 2008 to enter the degree program at the Payson campus.
Eastern Arizona College held a public forum Aug. 11 to outline the plan to implement the nursing program, which at one time was administered through Rio Salado Community College in Scottsdale.
Eighteen persons interested in nursing careers attended the meeting, called Got Nursing?
But for some prospective students, the nursing program is being offered too soon or not soon enough.
One young woman used the word "shady" when she referred to EAC's prerequisites.
GCC dean Harry Swanson countered that it was a "gray area." He said the program was designed for students to transfer into four-year colleges like Brigham Young University and Northwest College.
"The nursing program to me is kind of bittersweet because the college, EAC, just got up here," said Amantha Neilson, a certified nursing assistant (CNA) working at Rim Country Health and Retirement Community. Neilson shared her frustration with GCC's prerequisites, noting that half the people who attended "Got Nursing?" did not have their certified nursing assistant credentials.
"That alone at the college takes a semester," she said. "They want us to have all these things when they don't even offer two out of three of the (prerequisites) that we need for the nursing program."
The prerequisites for the nursing program, as listed on the GCC website, are: fundamental chemistry; organic and biological chemistry; intermediate algebra or placement test score into a higher algebra course; and introduction to psychology.
Additional requirements include:
- Current American Heart Association, Health Care Provider CPR certification,
- Current Arizona CNA,
- Twelfth-grade or higher reading competency on an EAC approved reading test,
- Passing the Nursing Entrance Test
Meeting the nursing program requirements could be a challenge for some students. CHM 138, General, Organic and Biological Chemistry, is offered by Eastern Arizona College as an online course. Most of the labs are conducted in students' homes, however, one eight-hour lab requires students to complete the work at the Thatcher campus.
"We have some things we still need to work out," said Margo Bracamonte senior dean at EAC. "We have to set up testing for the nursing. They have to go through an evaluation procedure with a committee to see who will be accepted
and who will not based on grades and testing scores."
The nursing entrance exam, which all candidates must take, will be given at EAC's Thatcher campus Friday, Sept. 2, and Friday, Nov. 18. The test will also be administered at the Payson campus at a date in October to be determined.
Neilson said because only five or six people have met the nursing program requirements, only a few students will be able to start their degrees. She believed if EAC waited to start the nursing program in fall 2006, more students would enroll.
But EAC officials said they are not particularly concerned with enrollment numbers.
Bracamonte said EAC has not established a minimum enrollment to get the nursing degree program started in Payson.
"We would take low numbers, but I don't think that is going to be a great problem," Bracamonte said. "We could take 20 at Payson, 20 at Globe and 20 at San Carlos. I know we have probably 10 ready to go here in Globe. We've not finished the evaluation at Payson. I'm hoping we have at least five up there (in Payson), but we're going to run the program period."
Mayuree Siripoon, the director of nursing and allied health, is based at EAC in Thatcher. Joseph P. Shannon is the nursing program biology instructor who will be located on the Payson campus. Nursing instructor Danielle T. Morando was hired Aug. 15 and will work out of Globe.
"We're doing interactive television," Bracamonte said. "The lecture portion will be handled by one full-time nursing instructor, then we will have clinical instructors at each site where we need them."
Hiring qualified faculty is a statewide problem. According to the Arizona State Board of Nursing, 30 percent of the qualified applicants in 2003 were not accepted because there was not enough faculty or resources to educate them.
If GCC had continued its contract with Pima Community College, the full cost of a biology instructor would have been covered. The Mogollon Health Alliance (MHA) had planned to donate half the cost of this position to GCC; Payson Regional Medical Center (PRMC) agreed to pick up the tab for the other half.
GCC, PRMC and MHA obtained a $600,000 federal grant, paid out over three years, for the nursing program. With the EAC contract, that grant money was rescinded by the federal government.
Judy Baker represented MHA at an April meeting among PRMC, Bracamonte, and Stephen Cullen, San Carlos and Gila Pueblo Dean.
"We were all informed that regardless of whether or not we gave money for the nursing program, the nursing program would continue," Baker said, adding that the MHA board decided at that time not to donate money to support a biology instructor.
A portion of that money is now earmarked for scholarships to local students who are pursuing higher education and careers in health fields.
Admission packets to GCC's 2006 CNA and the associate of applied science degree in nursing program are available at the college, 201 N. Mud Springs Road, Payson. (928) 468-8039. The deadline to apply for admission to the GCC nursing program is Oct. 15, 2005. Bracamonte said this deadline may be extended.