New LPN program a boon for Suffolk

Published 8:32 pm Thursday, April 4, 2013

After the recent demise of the Suffolk Public Schools Sentara Obici Hospital School of Practical Nursing, it’s good to see that Paul D. Camp Community College has stepped up to ensure our area retains the capacity to train these important members of the workforce.

When the school district announced last August that its LPN program was unable to continue due to the lack of funding, many citizens of Suffolk and the surrounding area were crestfallen.

The program had operated since 1959, training legions of LPNs filling such vital positions in communities as the kind nurse who took your temperature in elementary school or cares for your child in the same way now. For many, LPN training is also a first step toward becoming a registered nurse.

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A committee was formed to explore options to save to the district’s program, but in the end, in the words of one of its members, School Board member Lorraine Skeeter, “we had nothing else to turn to, and we just had to make that decision” to close it down.

Though donors could not be found for about $350,000 to $400,000 that would have kept the SPS program running for another year, the Birdsong Corp. has used the power of peanuts to help get the new PDCCC program off the ground.

The Suffolk firm has donated $150,000 through the Suffolk Foundation, which will be used to remodel and renovate the nursing skills lab at the college’s Suffolk campus.

In a news release, George Birdsong, chief executive director of the Birdsong Corp., stated that restarting the program in Suffolk will “fill a gap in educational and employment opportunities in our region.”

PDCCC has been taking positive steps toward getting the program off the ground for the first intake of students this fall. Coordinating the program will be Courtney Darden, a graduate of Southampton Memorial Hospital’s School of Practical Nursing who also graduated from PDCCC with an associate degree in nursing, and who plans to obtain her master’s from Old Dominion University.

“The new LPN program is going to be such an amazing opportunity for the community, the students, and the college, and I am blessed to be a part of it,” Darden said in a previous story.

“If I can help my students achieve the same success I have, then I will have accomplished a big part of my goal as an educator.”

Given its long history, it is understandable that, despite this new opportunity for training LPN nurses right here in Suffolk, many with connections to the shuttered school district program are still feeling chagrin. But when one door closes another door opens, as they say, and Suffolk is fortunate that PDCCC has seized this opportunity.