May 11, 2005
Nearly 100 students receiving an associate of arts degree in Nursing from HACC, Central Pennsylvania's Community College, will participate in the symbolic pinning ceremony at the Equine Arena of the Farm Show Complex, Friday, May 13, at 6 p.m. Like the ceremony of HACC's 40th commencement on Saturday, this is the first time the pinning ceremony has been held off-campus. Another 30 nursing graduates from HACC's Lancaster Campus will receive their pins during a Friday ceremony in Lancaster.

"The annual pinning ceremony is a traditional ceremony that has long been a part of nursing graduations," said HACC Director of Nursing Ron Rebuck. "It symbolizes the culmination of all the hard work, and each nursing school's pin is unique and worn as a professional emblem. HACC's nursing pin features a stethoscope which emphasizes nursing as an art and a science."

Registered nursing is among the fastest growing occupations requiring post-secondary or associate's degree training in Pennsylvania. Opportunities will continue to increase as nurses retire.

"HACC's nursing program has seen tremendous growth, and the demand for more nurses has never been higher," said Rebuck. "This is a highly competitive program which requires completion of general education courses prior to beginning the clinical portion of the program, which increases the number of semesters required to complete the program. It's a very rigorous course of study."

When they successfully complete HACC's nursing program, nurses are eligible to be licensed by the State Board of Nursing. HACC is the second largest educator of nurses in the Commonwealth and has one of the highest pass rates in the state for the national NCLEX-RN exam.

"The large number of nursing graduates who are nontraditional students- older than those who come to HACC right out of high school- echo the demographics of our graduating class in general who are juggling studies with families and often jobs, too," said HACC President Dr. Edna V. Baehre.

"This really affirms what community colleges do so well. Open enrollment and affordability makes it possible for many people who want to circle back and pursue the education that was initially postponed," Baehre said. "We strive to help these students fit everything in.

"This time of year is very satisfying for them and us as educators. We get to see how their hard work has paid off."

"People need to know they can manage their education and finances, as well as a rigorous nursing program. In the nursing class that started in 2004, for example, 45 percent of the students are married, and 61 percent are between the ages of 26 and 50," said Rebuck. "Seventy percent of that class receives financial aid. We do our best not only to provide a top notch education, but be there for each student in a supportive sense."

Suzan Horton, 37, of York Haven is just one of many nontraditional students in HACC's nursing program. Married with three children ages 12, 10 and 8, she was a stay-at-home-mom for a long time.

A New Jersey native, she moved here seven years ago, stayed home after the birth of her second child and did some childcare out of her home. She had a background in medical transcription education and also was a state certified home health aide in New Jersey. Prior to that, she also worked in banking and had almost finished an associate's degree in business administration before starting a family.

"I kind of always went to school," says Horton. "Over the three years working as a unit secretary at Hershey Medical Center, I would watch the nurses there and talk with them about what they did. They encouraged me to consider an RN program.

"When I looked at HACC's program, it made sense, almost having my associate's degree. I transferred a lot of pre-requisites going into the nursing program, but I still had to take the sciences."

With her youngest still in kindergarten, Horton started taking two evening classes for the first two semesters. Then she went full-time for the last two years, taking nursing theory classes and doing clinicals two days a week- going out into hospitals, nursing homes, Alzheimer's units, and many different types of nursing situations, including a psychiatric rotation at the state hospital.

"I picked HACC because it was the cheapest, fastest way I could do this," said Horton. "Location and price were key with three children. It's community colleges that are going to retrain people like me."

"Most of our class is made up of people like me. Some are right out of high school and plan to continue on for a bachelor's degree, but at least 50-60 percent are older, ready for this, the commitment to the program, and the hours it takes," said Horton.

"Many of us have been around the medical field in different capacities and have struggled financially. Some are single moms. It's hard. But the great thing about HACC is that there I had no trouble about credits transferring from other schools."

Horton, as a graduate nurse, begins work full time at the Ortenzio Heart Center at Holy Spirit Hospital in June. She plans to take her state board exam in July to become an RN. Nursing students from HACC already have jobs in place before they graduate.

Information about HACC's nursing program can be found by clicking on the Website below.

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