SANFORD – Talk about the nursing programs at Central Carolina Community College and the conversation quickly turns to those who developed, led and taught them in the almost 50 years since the first Practical Nurse Education curriculum class was offered in 1963.
Elderlene Keller, 89, of Sanford, smiles as she remembers that class at CCCC – only it was the Lee County Industrial Education Center then. Practical nursing was one of the first seven curriculums established.
Keller and her husband, Oscar ran, and still run, a nursing home in Sanford. In 1963, she enrolled to gain the skills to care for their clients as well as to supervise other caregivers.
Mary W. Mock, R.N., of Southern Pines, and an advisory committee from the medical communities in Lee, Chatham and Moore counties, set up the PNE program. It became the first curriculum program at the LCIEC to receive state accreditation.
Esther Burke, R.N., was hired as the instructor in July 1963. Even after almost 50 years, Keller still has fond memories of her.
“Miss Burke was a great teacher,” she said. “She did everything she could to help you. She was to me very much an example of what a nurse should be. Many times since those days, I’ve said when I did something, ‘I think this is the way Miss Burke would have done it.'”
On March 25, 1964, Keller and her 13 classmates received their Practical Nursing diplomas – the first curriculum class to graduate from the LCIEC.
Burke was director of the Practical Nursing program, then chair of the Nursing Department, serving the college and community from 1965 to 1986, when she retired. She passed away in Chatham County in 2011. In recognition of her love for and great impact on nursing education at CCCC, a nursing scholarship was established in her name.
Retired CCCC Director of Nursing Gloria Peele, R.N., of Sanford, also remembers those early days. When she was hired as a nursing instructor in 1965, she and Esther Burke were the only two female faculty. There were only 10 faculty altogether and only one building, Main (now Douglas H. Wilkinson Sr. Hall), on the Lee Campus.
“I’m glad I was there when the college was in its infancy and growing,” Peele said. “All of us were new; all of us were supportive. The school couldn’t do anything but grow. The potential was there; the leaders were there. It was such a challenge, but there were so many great folks to work with.”
In 1982, the college started offering a two-year Associate in Applied Science in Nursing, with training at the old Lee County Hospital on Carthage Street. Nancy M. Hall, R.N., served as director of a Nursing Education Options program within the associate degree program from 1982 until she left the college in 1985.
Students could take classes for one year, graduate, and be eligible to take the national exam for practical nurses or continue and complete the A.A.S. in Nursing. The first A.A.S. degrees were awarded in 1984. In 1994, the program’s name was changed to Associate Degree Nursing.
Peele became Director of Nursing in 1985, a position she held until her retirement in 1995. She said she still frequently runs into former students who express their appreciation for the education they received. One who remembers her well is Carla Peters, a graduate of the Practical Nursing program in 1987 and the ADN program in 1988.
“Mrs. Peele was one of my role models, a caring and compassionate teacher,” said Peters, who is now a home health nurse in West Virginia. “I’ve been a nurse for 24 years and I still love that basic nursing she taught me.”
In 1987, the PNE program was started at the Harnett County Campus under Helen Magda, R.N. She headed it until her retirement in 2009. In Chatham County, PNE started in 1992, with Wanda Bray, R.N., as instructor. These programs continue to be successful.
Following Peele’s retirement, Rhonda Evans, R.N., of Cameron, became Nursing Department chair in 1995, then chair of the college’s Health Sciences Department, a position she held until her passing in 2012.
Evans continued the high standards of training that kept the program among the best available. She was also a member of the committee that developed the new North Carolina Community College System Associate Degree Nursing program format.
“Rhonda was first and foremost a student advocate,” said Linda Blair, nursing instructor, who had worked with Evans since 1990. “She was not only chair of the department, with all those responsibilities, but also active in teaching in the classroom and in clinical settings. She was always working to find means to help students continue in the program.”
The demand for CCCC nursing programs continues to grow. From the original 1963 Practical Nurse Education class of 14, CCCC nursing had grown by fall 2011 to enroll 62 students in Associate Degree Nursing, 321 in ADN General Education preparatory, 62 in the Practical Nurse diploma, and 147 in PN General Education preparatory programs.
CCCC’s nursing program is fully accredited by the N.C. Board of Nursing. Currently, it has five full-time ADN instructors and four for practical nursing. Three of the five in the ADN and one in the PN program hold Master of Science in Nursing with a Concentration in Education degrees. A second PN instructor holds an MS-Nursing with a Nurse Practitioner Concentration.
ADN graduates consistently score high on the NCLEX-RN (National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse). In 2011, those taking the test for the first time had a 96 percent passing rate.
CCCC’s nursing programs are offered through its Health Sciences Department. The department also offers a Medical Assisting program, in which students are cross-trained to perform many administrative and clinical duties for work in physician’s offices and out-patient facilities. In fall 2011, there were 33 enrolled in that program and 30 in Medical Assisting General Education.
In the communities the college serves, there is always a need not only for nurses and practical nurses, but also for nurse aides and those with other health care skills available through the college’s Continuing Education Department. The first nurse aide extension training program started in Chatham County in 1964 with 10 students.
Now, Continuing Education offers a wide variety of health care programs at campuses and centers in Chatham, Harnett and Lee counties, including nurse aide, phlebotomy technician, sleep technician, pharmacy technician, nutritional dietary manager, EKG technician, healthcare activities director, and medical office skills – all essential for good patient care. At the spring 2012 Continuing Education Medical Programs graduation, more than 300 received their certificates in these fields.
CCCC’s Continuing Education Department was also one of only 12 in North Carolina chosen to take part in a federally funded pilot program to help develop a program to train Home Care Nurse Aides.
The growth of health sciences programs has required the expansion and addition of facilities to house them. At the Lee County Campus, a health building opened in 1984. With renovations and expansions, it became Gilbert A. Lett Hall in 2005, named for a generous supporter of the college’s nursing programs.
Within Lett Hall, the nursing program facility is named the Louise L. Tuller School of Nursing. In 2010, Tuller’s trust fund donated $325,000 for nursing programs, the largest private gift made to the college, to date.
Continuing Education health care programs in Lee County are held primarily at the college’s Lifelong Learning Center at the W.B. Wicker Business Campus.
In Chatham, nursing and other health care programs are held at both the Siler City Center and the Chatham County Campus, in Pittsboro. In Harnett, CCCC broke ground April 12 for its new Health Sciences Building, in Lillington. Scheduled to open in fall 2013, it will be a state-of-the-art health care training facility.
“Nurses and associated health care workers are critically important to every community,” said Dr. Bud Marchant, president of Central Carolina Community College. “CCCC is proud to have partnered with our communities, their medical facilities, and health care organizations for almost 50 years to provide highly qualified health care professionals who make our communities better places in which to live and raise families. Health sciences education at CCCC has served our communities well for almost 50 years. Working with our community partners, we look forward to an even more impressive future.”
For more about nursing and other health care occupations training at Central Carolina, visit the web site, www.cccc.edu, and click on “Programs of Study” or “Continuing Education.”