With dreams of wider horizons pushed aside, many licensed vocational nurses work hard to support themselves and their families. Though filling positions with limited breadth and little expansion opportunity, these LVNs can’t spare the time or money to return to school in pursuit of the opportunities and recognition that come with licensure as a registered nurse.
For several groups of such LVNs, the Pacific Union College nursing department has committed to fulfilling dreams. At the request of Hanford Community Medical Center, Travis Air Force Base, and Ukiah Valley Medical Center, PUC has established extended-campus LVN-to-RN programs specifically for the working adult.
“ The program is a huge commitment for students,” says nursing instructor Debbie Winkle, who oversees the extended-campus programs. “The students are all very motivated and focused. This is something they want so badly. For many, it’s the only opportunity to increase their nursing education.”
The program at the Travis Air Force Base has provided new experiences for the nursing department, with some of their students being deployed to Iraq. “They have life-changing experiences, no matter what their political views,” Winkle says.
But always the highlight of these programs is dream fulfillment. “Many have waited and worked for 15 or 20 years for this chance,” says Winkle. “The RN license opens up their world.”
Five PUC nursing students, nursing instructor Gail Aagaard, and two doctors headed for Fiji this summer—but not for vacation. In conjunction with Project Fiji, a mission endeavor of Stephen Arrington’s Dream Machine Foundation, the group worked with the native population for several days.
“ We provided a service to the people,” explains BSN nursing student Ruby Harrison; “and they in turn provided us a service by feeding us, housing us, and opening their hearts to us and allowing us to be a part of their beautiful culture.
Aagaard, impressed by the way the students demonstrated leadership and nursing skills, says that “the villagers flocked to the clinic, and the students spent time with everyone, even the family members who tagged along, making friends with young and old.”
For Ruby, the cultural experience was rich. “In Fiji,” she explains, “everyone in the village is considered family, and you always help one another, even if the other person can't pay you back. That principle was extended to us, and it is much different from how we do things in America.”
Ruby tells how her new friend Siwa explained to her, “Money isn't everything—
family is the most important thing, and helping each other out. When everyone in the village helps each other, then we have time to focus on the important things."
Ruby concludes, “This trip was an experience that has left me with an incredible love of Fiji and a deep desire to participate in more volunteer experiences.”
Indeed, the trip impacted them all. “There were no dry eyes anywhere as our bus pulled out,” explains Aagaard. “Those dear people will always be ‘family’ now.”