On Wednesday, June 16, 2021, the special guest of the Winnfield Rotary Club was Jennifer Smith, RN instructor for Central Louisiana Technical and Community College (CLTCC) Huey P. Long campus here in Winnfield. She was introduced by Rotarian of the week, Jeff Johnson, dean of the Huey P. Long campus of CLTCC, who invited her to speak to Rotarians about the school’s Practical Nursing program.
Ms. Smith began her own nursing career at the Winn VoTech School, where she earned her nurse’s aide certificate and worked as a CNA while completing her practical nursing certificate in 1998. She moved to East Texas, worked as a nurse at Good Shepherd Medical Center in Longview and earned her Associate Degree in Nursing in 2005. In 2010, Ms. Smith earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing. She worked in the intensive care unit and later became the clinical director of the medical-surgical unit at Good Shepherd.
In 2012, Ms. Smith returned to Winnfield and became an instructor at the local CLTCC campus, first as a pharmacy technician instructor, then in the patient care technician program, and currently in the practical nursing program. Ms. Smith said her talent for teaching showed up as early as her VoTech days when she naturally began to help her classmates in the nursing program, even devising practice tests to help them pass the real tests. In her nursing practice, she enjoyed having nursing students follow her in their clinical courses and explaining various nursing practices for different illnesses and treatments. So when she relocated back to the area, the CLTCC was a natural fit for her.
Ms. Smith is enthusiastic about the local practical nursing program. Nurses are desperately needed in many different settings today, including hospitals and doctors’ offices, nursing homes, home health, schools, large plants, public health units, health insurance companies, etc. She said anyone who obtains a practical nursing degree from their program and passes the examination required for receiving a license to practice nursing (the NCLEX) can get a job in that field if that person wants to work as a nurse.
CLTCC Huey P. Long has slots for 42 people in the practical nursing program and is currently accepting applications for the fall 2021 semester. There is, however, a waiting list. The program takes about 21 months to complete, and the local campus presently graduates about 25 students each year. Last year, the HPL campus tied for fourth among all institutions in Louisiana in the number of nursing students graduating from the PN program. In 2019, every student who graduated from the local PN program passed the NCLEX on the first try. The NCLEX pass rate on the first try for students from the HPL practical nursing program is usually about 85%, which shows the largest majority of nursing students here are learning what they need to know to be competent nurses.
Ms. Smith said an advantage of attending the practical nursing program at the community college is that it offers college-level transition classes that are credited toward a degree program should the student want to pursue a higher level of nursing education, as she did herself in obtaining advanced nursing degrees while working. The different nursing degrees determine what tasks and procedures the nurse are qualified to do in the clinical nursing setting. She also said the current entry pay rate for students from their program who pass the NCLEX is $18 to $24 an hour.
Pictured above: Rotarian Jeff Johnson, Dean of CLTCC Huey P. Long with Jennifer Smith, RN
To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE