Keeping it 100: Whatcom’s nursing program prepares students for medical careers

by Tyler Bergen

With 100 percent of graduates passing their national exams, the last four cohorts of Whatcom Community College’s nursing program have earned a solid reputation in the medical field.

“One of the things that makes Whatcom’s program special is that we meet national and local nurse accreditation standards,” said Dave Knapp, Advising and Career Services Associate Director.

Upon completion of the program, students receive an Associate of Science in Nursing degree, which allows them to take the NCLEX-RN test, and eventually become a registered nurse. The final quarter involves students working 40 hours a week at an affiliated clinic to complete their training.

“Clinical requirements in the nursing programs are unique because it allows students to get a lot of clinical experience,” said Knapp.
The nursing program prepares individuals for a career in the medical industry, through a rigorous curriculum that is constantly adapting to changes in the medical field.

The program operates from the Health Professions Education Center on the north side of campus, which just opened last year and “has an awesome group of faculty,” he said.

The nursing program takes about two years to complete and gives students the opportunity to continue and get a bachelor’s degree in nursing from another institution, such as Western Washington University.

“The partnership we have started with Western is really great,” said Knapp. “Our nursing graduates can now finish their education right at Western.”

Western’s four-year program, which began in the fall of 2013, is for students who have already completed their AS degree at a two year program such as Whatcom’s.

“[Our] program is a cohort model where students enter in groups and take classes together,” Knapp said. “The curriculum is always changing and staying competitive.”

Compared to other nursing programs in the state, Knapp said, Whatcom’s program prepares students for a competitive medical field by using a conceptual-based curriculum.
“Concept based nursing tries to span all of the most useful medical concepts,” said

Knapp. “What we are consistently hearing from nursing organizations is that nurses should either have a bachelor’s degree, or be able to earn one while they work.”

Prerequisites for the program cost the same as regular classes at Whatcom, but some of the classes in the program itself have additional fees to offset the costs of learning materials.  Students must also maintain a GPA of 3.12 or higher throughout the program.
Informational sessions about Whatcom’s nursing program are usually held monthly and can be found on the calendar page, said Knapp.

“We usually encourage interested students to start there because it teaches them a lot about the program,” he added.
Whatcom also has a nursing club, called the Student Nurses of Whatcom (SNOW). SNOW actively works around campus to bring students interested in nursing together. SNOW was formed to help provide peer support, information, and a sense of nursing community to fellow nursing students.

“I know that in the last couple of years, they (SNOW) have been reaching out to potential nursing students to get them interested in the program,” said Knapp.

“Students should know what it means to be a nurse, do research to learn what the benefits and challenges of it are, and have a good idea of what they are getting into,” said Knapp.

Applying to the program does have some basic requirements. A 50 dollar fee is collected for the application. Applicants then are responsible to turn in an application for selective entry admission, all previous college transcripts, a learning readiness assessment, and a background check among other things.


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