Want to save people’s lives? And be paid to do it? “There is a shortage of at least a half-million nurses in the United States today,” reports Kavirag Singh, founder and CEO of Healthcare Job Bank, in the February 2004 issue of the Medical Herald. “There is a tremendous demand for nurses, especially in Southern California,” affirms Ida Danzey, Assistant Dean of Santa Monica College’s Health Services Program. “People are living longer and of course that just increases the demand for qualified people.”
“Nursing is so rewarding,” says Collin Inverary, a graduate of SMC’s registered nursing program. “I can’t begin to put it into words. To actually save a patient’s life or be a part of that is such a great experience. It’s a great feeling.”
SMC regularly trains eighty students a year for its registered nursing program, and virtually every one of its graduates is finding employment, and meaningful employment. And in an ongoing effort to help ease California’s nursing shortage, Santa Monica College has joined forces with several Los Angeles area hospitals to train vocational nurses and entry-level health professionals to move into higher level nursing positions, more than doubling the size of the program. These practitioners can fulfill some of the functions of nurses but, without the additional training, do not qualify as registered nurses able to assist in medical procedures.
SMC’s program is part of a concerted statewide effort between community colleges and hospitals to remedy the acute national shortage of nurses. Some 800 new slots, using $4 million in growth funds provided by the state, have been added to try and meet demand. According to faculty members, mixing new students together with vocational nurses who already have hands-on experience will create a dynamic that benefits all students.
The health sciences program at Santa Monica College isn’t simply a classroom affair, with students sitting in chairs listening to lectures about anatomy and physiology, although its academic requirements are certainly rigorous. “This is an excellent program, but it’s also a very intense and demanding one,” says Alina Antanesian, a second-year student nurse at SMC. “It challenges you in every way possible and brings out deep-down emotions that you didn’t even know you had.”
The program includes clinical training at numerous hospitals in Los Angeles where students learn from acute-care settings where actual patient care is transpiring in front of their eyes. SMC has on-site learning arrangements with St. John’s Health Center, UCLA Medical Center, Cedars-Sinai Health Center, Brotman Memorial Medical Center, the Veteran’s Administration Hospital, and Kaiser Hospital.
“Watching critical-care situations is such a great way to learn,” says Marcy Bregman, a Nursing Instructor at SMC and a professional nurse who has worked at Sherman Oaks Burn Center, UCLA Medical Center, and Cedars-Sinai. “In critical-care settings, nurses have to really think fast. You never know what’s going to come in through the door and there can be times when no doctor is immediately available, so the nurse has to make some very important decisions until the doctor arrives. It’s a wonderful challenge.” Bregman, who has taught nursing at a number of institutions in the Southern California area, is a big supporter of the SMC Nursing Program: “It’s a wonderful program,” she says, “the best I’ve ever been associated with. It’s designed for the working person and the students are such a diverse group. I love teaching —it’s like you’re opening a window and helping someone see.”
Community service is also an essential part of the nursing profession, according to Bregman. “Santa Monica College had people at every single first aid station at this year’s L.A. Marathon,” says Bregman with a proud smile. “We had sixty-eight students in all.”
But being a student in SMC’s program isn’t all visits to critical-care units and volunteer stints: there’s a lot of nose-to-the-grindstone studying involved. “The program is very intense,” says first-year student Teresa Castillo. “It’s a lot more rigorous than the classes we took in order to get into the program. But I want to be a nurse, so it’s worth it. And I’m learning so much.” Sunghee Chung, also a first-year student in the program, agrees with that assessment: “It’s tough,” she says, “but it’s great too. We know there’s a lot of financial security in nursing. And it’s a great feeling to know that you’ll have a job where you’ll be actually helping people.”
Prospective students must complete Chem 10, English 1, Anatomy 1, Physiology 3, and Microbiology 1 with a 2.5 GPA or higher prior to being admitted to the program. In addition to regular nursing courses—including pediatrics, surgical nursing, women’s health, and psychiatric mental health nursing – students must complete half a dozen other general education classes before they receive their Associate Degree in Nursing. And then they must pass their board exams before they actually become a Registered Nurse. “We want serious, dedicated students,” says Ida Danzey. “We offer a lot of help to our graduates in terms of getting ready to pass the Boards—tutoring, tips, advice—all of that. We don’t simply want our students to graduate from our program, we want them out in the community, successful and working.”
And SMC’s new program to train vocational nurses to become registered nurses is now in its second cycle. Cedars-Sinai Health Center has entered into a second contract with SMC this past Spring to provide career laddering training to 100 vocational nurses to become registered nurses. Reports JoAnn Whitaker, Education Program Coordinator for Cedars-Sinai: “We’re proud and honored to support with our funding grants an extra cohort of students from Santa Monica College. We already know that Cedars-Sinai Health Center will try to hire all of the students from the prior rotation of Santa Monica College nursing students.”
In addition, SMC was recently awarded a $485,000 contract with the state to provide training of entry-level health professionals—such as nursing aides—to become certified nursing assistants, certified counselors, home health aides, and other specializations. SMC has already begun training at Kaiser Permanente hospitals in Los Angeles, Brotman Medical Center in Culver City, and Pacifica Hospital of the Valley in Sun Valley, and the college expects to expand its program into other medical facilities.
“…it’s a great feeling to know that you’ll have a job where you’ll be actually helping people.” — Sunghee Chung, First-Year SMC Nursing Student.
Nursing, once considered a profession for females only, is now wide open to males as well. “There’s a lot more men coming into the profession and that’s a very welcome change,” says Danzey. “We want diversity in the field, in terms of race and gender. And nursing is such a wonderful and rewarding field, why shouldn’t men become nurses? Pediatric nursing was my specialty before I got into education and I loved working with children. They don’t feel sorry for themselves. They might have a life-threatening disease or they may have lost a limb and they simply have this very positive, up-beat attitude about themselves and about life as well. They’re a great example to us all. And if you make them feel a little bit better, it makes you feel good about yourself. You think to yourself, ‘I made a difference.’ And you know what: you did.”
Adds nursing student Helena Edvardsson, “The Nursing department here is like a big extended family; very lovely people who help each other grow and learn. It’s all about juggling. Juggling—family, work, study, all of it—is the best skill you can have as a nurse.”
“There’s a lot more men coming into the profession and that’s a very welcome change. We want diversity in the field, in terms of race and gender.” — Ida Danzey, Head of SMC Health Services Program.
About two-thirds of California’s nursing graduates are from community colleges. Cooperative efforts are underway to increase the number of student spaces available.
California now ranks 49th among 50 states in its share of registered nurses. Efforts are underway at Santa Monica College to increase the number of student spaces available and to foster student success.
Area hospitals are contracting with SMC to train vocational nurses and nursing assistants employed at the hospitals to become registered nurses able to assist in medical procedures. The most recent contract, in May 2005 with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, hopes to add 100 licensed hospital personnel.
SHORT TERM TRAINING
SMC, in collaboration with SEIU and other training professionals, provides training activities to individuals wishing to enter the health care field as certified nursing assistants, certified alcohol & other drug counselors, home health aides, and other specializations. The program is funded with a $600,000 grant from the Chancellor’s Office and $762,000 in matching funds from health care partners.
SMC has received approval from the California Board of Registered Nursing as a pilot program for online delivery of the SMC Associate in Arts degree nursing courses. Grant applications for the conversion of the courses are under consideration. Online training provides scheduling flexibility for students with work and family commitments.
GRANTS. SMC is aggressively pursuing new state and federal grant opportunities in collaboration with industry partners, including the Governor’s Nurse Education Initiative.
EXPANDED FACILITIES. An entire wing of new classrooms, training labs, and student success labs for SMC’s health services department opens this Fall at SMC’s Santa Monica Airport campus. Funding is from Measure U, approved by Santa Monica and Malibu voters in March 2002.
“Cedars-Sinai Health Center is proud and honored to support with our funding grants an extra cohort of students from Santa Monica College.” — JoAnn Whitaker, R.N., M.S. Education Program Coordinator, Institute for Professional Nursing Development, Cedars-Sinai Health Center.
“We are tremendously proud of our students and their talents and grateful to be part of this prestigious competition.” — Interior Architectural Design Professor Denise Travis
Two Santa Monica College students competed against more than 30 students from a wide variety of universities—including top architecture and design schools—to capture the first-place award in a prestigious Southern California design competition.
The SMC team of James Butterly and Carlos Muñoz won the American Institute of Architects/Los Angeles Interior Architecture 2005 Annual Design Competition for four-year universities and two-year colleges in Southern California. The top honors came with a $10,000 prize.
Butterly and Muñoz were among 36 students competing from 18 schools, including the Southern California Institute of Architecture, Otis School of Art & Design, USC, Art Center College of Design, and San Diego State University.
“We are tremendously proud of our students and their talents and grateful to be part of this prestigious competition,” said SMC interior architectural design professor Denise Travis.
Students were given six hours to design an unusual project—an entertainment venue that would attract young people in their 20s but would also secretly be used by the American intelligence community to recruit the nation’s “best and brightest young talent.” The 6,000-square-foot venue was to be located on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica.
Butterly and Muñoz designed a hip cyber restaurant/bar/café that included computer stations for Internet access and sophisticated video games. They created an elaborate scenario in which the computer game players were monitored by members of the CIA and other intelligence agencies to find potential recruits. Those who displayed special decoding abilities would be given access to a VIP mezzanine area to meet with recruiting agents.
“I could immediately relate to the assignment because I’m a big fan of the TV show ‘Alias,’” Butterly said. “In our case, we wanted the space to be fun and interactive on the surface level but we needed to tell a uniquely different story on another through the many complex layers of intricate high-tech design.”
Muñoz said he believes that the presentation of their concept is what won over the judges. “We dressed in blazers wearing sunglasses, like two agents from ‘Men in Black,’ and we introduced ourselves as secret operatives with a special design mission.”
Butterly, of Los Angeles, and Muñoz, of Santa Monica, said they worked well together as a team and were delighted to learn they had made the best impression on the distinguished judges.
The Interior Architectural Design program is housed at SMC’s Academy of Entertainment and Technology campus and offers certificates in design (two levels), a professional certificate in set design, a professional certificate in CAD production, and a number of professional skills electives.
THIS FALL 2005
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