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Hospital's LPN Training Program Reaches Milestone

Aug. 1, 2004 – A milestone was marked in the Virgin Islands' first hospital-based practical nurses training program by a capping ceremony Friday evening at Roy L. Schneider Hospital. It featured several speakers, 13 students and their mentors, and the presentation of verbal and actual bouquets to many persons involved in the success of the venture.
Those enrolled in the program have been studying intensively since the first day of classes in January — "five days a week from 9 to 4," said June A. Adams, a licensed practical nurse since 1950 and the dreamer and persevering originator of the program. They've been studying anatomy, physiology, pharmacology and patient care. Since all of the students came into the program as certified nursing assistants, they had a head start on theory and practice, as well as medical terminology.
The School of Practical Nursing has moved into high gear following two years of intensive planning. From a pool of 50 applicants — with no advertising — 17 were chosen, and 13 have continued thus far.
Capping, speaker Angela Rennalls-Atkinson said, is a designation dating back to the 1800s. "After 1900, caps and uniforms were codified" and identified where the nurse received her training, she explained. The revival of the capping ceremony honors nurses who have gone before, and the cap is "a symbolic badge of success and achievement and," she stressed, "of encouragement."
The ceremony began with the students and their mentors processing into the room two by two.
This first crop of homegrown LPN students blossomed with smiles and a few tears under the crisp white badges of progress, each cap pinned atop the hairdo by the student's mentor. One student's mother was her proud mentor; another's was a beaming mother-in-law.
The capping ceremony was led by registered nurses Lineth Sylvester and Adeline Connor, who were later acknowledged by bouquets.
Before the capping, the audience of parents, children, other family and friends heard from a number of speakers presented by Amos Carty Jr., Schneider chief operating officer. He also recognized many attendees, including Health Commissioner Darlene Carty, Juan F. Luis Hospital chief executive Gregory Calliste and other lead Luis professionals. Adams is working with Luis Hospital to get a St. Croix practical nursing program started.
The evening's recurring theme was gratitude for Adams' longtime dream. She loves nursing, and the practical nurse, she said in an earlier interview, is "the bedside nurse." (See "15-Month LPN Program Is Under Way at Hospital".) She described the many years, plans, obstacles and progress between the dream and the start of classes. Early in the evening, she recognized several retired LPNs and told the students, "You new people are standing on the shoulders of those." Later she presented bouquets to three retirees.
Adams told the students the program is testing them to see how far they might go. She hopes some will go on to college.
The next practical nursing class — due to start in April 2005, right after the present class graduates in March — will be required to pass University of the Virgin Islands math and English skills courses, she noted.
Adams enumerated many persons who had been part of the progress — from Darryl Smalls, hospital engineering and maintenance director, to Rodney S. Miller Sr., chief executive officer. She said that Miller was "always by my side" in overcoming obstacles. She especially mentioned professor Ophelia Torres, who designed the curriculum.
She also thanked the two senators present — Douglas R. Canton Jr., who chairs the Legislature's Health, Hospitals and Human Services Committee, and Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, Finance Committee chair — for their "full cooperation" from the start. Donastorg later kiddingly wondered if Adams had used hypnosis.
Program director and lead instructor Yulanda Faison spoke next. Fiddling with the mike, she mouthed "Whew!" It wasn't clear whether that was a comment on her nervousness or her sense of accomplishment.
The students in this pilot class, Faison said proudly, "are the learning curve." She introduced the teaching staff: Celestine Belsejet, charge nurse in Labor and Delivery; Susannah Brin, former chief pharmacist; Lillia King, laboratory head; and Evelyn McLaughlin, retired director of nursing at Schneider and, formerly, nursing director at Knud Hansen Hospital and interim Schneider Hospital CEO.
Recalling Harriet Tubman as the "Black Moses," Faison said Adams should be designated "the female Moses."
Words of wisdom came from several with the credentials to offer them:
– Winifred Garfield, registered nurse, task force member and head of the Board of Nurse Licensure, told the students, "Young ladies and Mr. Gentleman, wear your caps with pride." Her remark included Patrick Robinson, the lone male in the class.
– Miller said, "Stay away from dreamkillers and naysayers."
He also had praise for Adams, noting, "We are alike; we like to get the job done, and that, I think, is why we work so well together." Also singling out Robinson (and receiving the most applause of the evening), he said the community must encourage its young men to seek work in health-care professions.
– Dr. Alfred O. Heath, observing that success comes from "the educated life," told the students that ahead of them lie "successive valleys of unsettling problems requiring perseverance and persistence." The final suggestion from this medical professional and community Renaissance man: "Learn the value of time" and how to manage it.
Class president Beverly Berry promised, "We'll come before you nine months from now not just nurses but respectable, very well-educated and topnotch nurses."
Participants and, in parentheses, their mentors were: Sophia Allen (Norma Robinson), Beverly Berry (Winifred Garfield), Kris Callwood (Margaret Colbourne), Tahima Colborne (Margaret Colborne), Morven Evelyn (Petronella Evelyn), Joanne Hanley-Smith (Verna Petersen), Annette James (Genevieve Donovan), Eyshtar Mollah (Carl Sam), Patrick Robinson (June A. Adams), Linda C. Smith (Meslyn Baron), Martina Tavanier (June A. Adams), Agnes Thomas (Gloria Carter) and Adrianna Watley (Noreen Fletcher).

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