Gila Community College’s nursing program was recently recognized nationally for excellence.
Eastern Arizona College and its three campuses — in Payson, Globe and Thatcher — earned the prestigious National League for Nursing, Center of Excellence in Nursing Education award for 2018.
EAC is one of only 16 recipients of this award, joined by Georgetown University School of Nursing, Purdue University Northwest, and Phillips School of Nursing at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, to name a few.
“We are the first and only program in Arizona to receive this designation,” said Carolyn McCormies, nursing director and division chair, nursing and Allied Health, EAC. “It’s not an easy thing. We had to meet certain criteria, the application document was 100 pages.
“One of the reasons we got this designation is we center on excellence,” said McCormies. “We could demonstrate that we were able to do more than just teach our students to pass a test. We have mentorship, leadership and community service hours built into our program — they are a requirement of the course. Community service must be approved, for example, volunteering at the Christian Clinic in Payson would qualify. We strive to help in our community and be seen doing good and being role models for our students.”
McCormies also said that Payson stands out in community support and partnerships.
“We involve the community in our programs,” said McCormies, “especially in the last four or five years with disaster drills. The fire department, flight crew and hospital have been involved and offered a very realistic learning experience for the younger students. The entire health care community has supported the students’ learning. This has only happened in the Payson area. Learning hands-on is so much better than reading a book.”
The next disaster drill is scheduled for spring 2020. Students use moulage makeup to create realistic wounds.
Community partners also provide funding, opportunities to perform community service and offer mentoring support.
“We are extremely proud of our program and community partners,” said McCormies, “all three campus communities are supportive. We have exceptional communities which is why we have an exceptional program.”
Starting in 2020, nursing students who need to repeat a semester will be able to re-enroll for the spring semester instead of having to wait until the fall.
This will benefit students as the program needs to be completed in one and one-half years, so waiting a year to retake a semester puts them out of the program. It also helps with program retention.
“You can’t get a C in nursing,” said McCormies, “that’s not a passing grade, so if some students need a little more time, we introduced the spring entry.”
GCC Payson also offers a dual-enrollment program with Payson High School students, giving them the ability to graduate high school with a two-year degree, giving them advanced preparation to enter the nursing program.
EAC also offers a SCRUBS camp at Gila Community College Payson with the intention of exposing students younger than high school, in sixth though ninth grades, to career options in the nursing field.
The camps are two to three days and include instruction on checking vitals, sutures, injections, phlebotomy, CPR, basic safety and health care using a dummy. This gives the students the opportunity to start thinking of what they want to do early and plan their studies accordingly, she said.
Achieving the National League for Nursing, Center of Excellence in Nursing Education award is an honor for the program.
McCormies cited several things that set Eastern Arizona College’s nursing program apart:
• Use of senior-level students with beginning students in a long-term care setting.
• Community service required across the program.
• Intensive use of clinical simulation and the opportunity to use registered nurse skills several times a semester throughout the program.
• Individualized coaching for at-risk students with a customized coaching program.
• Clinical Check Ups (CCUs) where the progress of clinical skills of at-risk students are assessed and evaluated.
• Students travel for clinical experiences most semesters.
• Use of pharmacology and math on every nursing exam. This has led to a sustained outcome of high scores on pharmacological/parenteral therapy content on NCLEX.
• The EAC Nursing Program sponsors camps for kids in elementary and middle to early high school who are interested in healthcare careers (Gear Up and SCRUBS camps). This leads to increased numbers of students interested in pursuing nursing as a profession.
• Persistent outcomes in student satisfaction and NCLEX pass rates. Pass rates are currently above 95 percent.
“Our students have been the most important focus in our program,” said McCormies. “This designation underscores our faculty’s commitment to exceptional outcomes in socializing students, professional involvement, commitment to lifelong learning and creativity. We are humbled to be recognized by our peers alongside such prestigious programs throughout the nation.”
For more information on the nursing program at GCC Payson campus, call 928-468-8039 or visit the campus at 201 N. Mud Springs Road.