Feb. 26, 2004 – For the next 15 months. 17 students of a great variety of ages and experience are going to be very busy: They're enrolled in an intense Licensed Practical Nursing program at Roy L. Schneider Hospital.
It was "amazing," June Adams, who's been an LPN since 1950 and who has long advocated such a program at the hospital, said. "With no advertising, we had 50 applicants."
A pretest was given to select applicants, and among those chosen are young people; mature women, some looking for a second career; and one man. A number are on study leave from the hospital; one or two have hospital jobs they will keep while attending classes. All are CNAs – Certified Nursing Assistants – and Adams feels their strong interest will keep attrition low.
Classes, which began in late January, are held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, at present on the Schneider Hospital premises. While this first program is territorywide, a similar St. Croix program will start soon, Adams said.
A staff of seasoned professionals and registered nurses is teaching the classes. The lead instructor is nurse practitioner Yolanda Faison. Also teaching are Celestine Belsejet, with a master's degree in nursing; Lillia King, laboratory head; Evelyn McLaughlin, retired director of nursing at Schneider Hospital and previously at Knud Hansen Hospital; and registered nurse Gloria Stewart, coordinator.
The support from physicians has been wonderful, Adams said, with Dr. Alfred Heath and Dr. Frank Odlum, among others, volunteering to teach sessions.
And of course, she said, Schneider Hospital chief executive officer Rodney Miller is firmly committed to the program. Not only will it supply a continuous stream of trained local personnel, but it will allow phasing out the expensive contracting for off-island nurses. Miller recognized right upon his arrival the hospital is not a one-man show, she said, and he has been encouraging to her and others.
Adams firmly believes in a natural progression from CNA to LPN to RN. Once people are in the nursing field and like it, she believes, they will stay and want to move up. She pointed out the great need throughout the islands not only for hospital staff nurses but also for home-care and hospice services and staffing of the Frederiksted and Myrah Keating Smith Health Centers, Human Services Department, the new cancer care center, and nursing homes. The LPN program has been planned with the idea of participants going on to matriculate in the University of the Virgin Islands bachelor of science in nursing program.
Adams is obviously delighted at the realization of her dream. She obtained her LPN license after attending nursing school, began work in New York City, and has made nursing her lifelong work. She was president of the national LPN association for four years. She loves nursing and, in particular, practical nursing: The practical nurse, she said, is "the bedside nurse."
Adams is vice chair of the Schneider Hospital board. She organized and presented the LPN concept to the joint territorial hospitals board and consequently was charged with responsibility for developing the program. It's been about two years in the making, she said, terming herself the "facilitator." Today it is a reality.
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