Next generation of nurses: School of Vocational Nursing class marks midway point in quest toward careers

The next generation of health care professionals in the Valley Baptist Medical Center School of Vocational Nursing recently stepped into the spotlight for a progression ceremony as they strive toward becoming Licensed Vocational Nurses.

Forty-seven students were recognized during the ceremony Thursday, May 5, 2016, at First Baptist Church in Harlingen. The milestone symbolized completion of the first half of LVN education for one of the largest classes of nursing students in the program’s history as students move on to more advanced training. Families and friends celebrated the midpoint toward graduation in December 2016.

Student Sandra Heffernan of Harlingen said that the class mastered the first level of basic nursing skills such as taking vital signs, administering medications, and starting intravenous fluids for patients. She said that as students work they are increasing their passion for nursing.

“Students have a feeling of accomplishment like they’re going forward and we’re beginning to feel like nurses,” she said. “We’re seeing and feeling the calling of being a nurse.”

The emotional and physical demands on students to sacrifice by disciplining themselves to study and meet the rigors of patient care shatter the media misperceptions about work in health care settings, said Heffernan, who wants to pursue a Registered Nursing diploma and possibly a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree in the future.

Hector Rodriguez, a native of Harlingen who lives in Brownsville, said that students spend long hours away from their families and friends while studying for frequent exams. The efforts mean students often cannot attend social functions.

“Students have to remember that it’s all worth it. When you sign up for the School of Vocational Nursing Program, your whole family signs up with you,” he added.

The class now enters more rotations through specialized patient care settings ranging from the emergency room to pediatrics, home health care and hospice, including experience at facilities beyond VBMC. Students will remain under supervision as they take over advanced care responsibilities for more patients. Rodriguez said that he wants to carefully consider options during the next few months before choosing a career field.

Patrick Ybarra, RN, MSN, Administrative Director of Nursing at VBMC-Harlingen, told students and the large crowd that the students should feel confident because the School of Vocational Nursing faculty has a reputation for preparing successful nurses. He said the students will become more compassionate and stronger as they improve their decision-making skills.

“That hug or a thank you from a patient will be worth it all and you will be proud to be a nurse,” Ybarra said.

Program Office Coordinator Stephanie Hamby said that the diversity of students in the class represents a wide range of backgrounds and many are entering their second careers. Prospective students should consider the fast pace of the learning environment and high expectations, she said.

Pre-entrance exams for the next Vocational Nursing class at VBMC-Harlingen will be administered in June. For details go online to or call (956) 389-1721.