TCC nursing program leads state

Published 10:44 pm Friday, February 27, 2009

In this unstable economy, there is one field that is booming: healthcare.

According to a November 2008 article on, health-care employment rose by about 350,000 jobs in 2008, while the rest of the private sector lost about 1.7 million jobs.

In today’s world, there is no better time to join the medical work force.

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To train to join that force, there may be no better place locally than at Tidewater Community College.

Graduates of TCC’s nursing program earned a 97.9-percent pass rate for the National Council Licensure Examination – RN, the school announced last week.

“I think it speaks very highly of the students and faculty in the program,” said Leslie Twine, interim dean of our health profession programs for TCC. “The primary catalyst to this success is the faculty. They care about the students’ success. They go above and beyond what is required of them.”

With a 97.9 pass rate, TCC has the highest certification pass rate in the entire state, which means TCC students beat out the other 16 baccalaureate programs and 28 associate-degree nursing programs in Virginia.

“It’s a positive motivator for the students,” said Denise Bell, head of the community college’s nursing program. “It shows students that this is achievable – they can see it as doable. This program is a lot of work. We tell them, ‘You will have to study harder than the other disciplines, because what you do can kill a person and what you don’t do can kill a person.’ It’s an agonizing program, but when you come out, you’re done.”

Bell credits the program’s recent switch to a new scheduling model as a key to its success.

In the fall of 2006, staff helped change the courses from a 16-week curriculum to two, eight-week curriculums. The change allows students to enroll in multiple and smaller groups for more hands-on attention and teamwork opportunities. Also, if a student withdraws from a class or fails a course, he or she does not have to sit out a year to repeat it.

“It was a lot of work, but so far, it’s going well,” Bell said.

The program looks like it will continue to do well in the future, thanks to the new nursing facility that will be up and running January 2010.

With the move to the new Portsmouth campus, the facility will get separate classrooms and labs with state-of-the-art technology, including a dedicated simulation lab.

“It will be very exciting,” Bell said. “Just the newness, the freshness, the furniture – just getting new things. When the students go to the new building, they will think they have died and gone to heaven.”

While the new things will be helpful, Twine said, it all goes back to the classroom fundamentals.

“Our students are exposed to a variety of tools,” Twine said. “I think the students are exposed to a very stellar body of faculty who have a wealth of knowledge to share. They really walk away having the breadth and depth in knowledge needed.”