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LCC to add LPN degree

| August 10, 2005 12:00 AM

By STEVE KADEL Western News Reporter

The medical education program at Lincoln County Campus of Flathead Valley Community College gets a big boost next spring when students can start pursuing a Licensed Practical Nurse degree.

A total of 20 students will be admitted for the two-year program on both the Lincoln County and Flathead campuses.

LCC Director Pat Pezzelle said courses offered during four semesters are tightly sequenced, meaning that full-time course work is virtually required. He urged any Lincoln County students who want to enroll in the fall to take assessment tests this month in math, reading and English composition.

That's because freshman English and college algebra are required during the program's first two semesters. Any remedial work that is necessary must be done as soon as possible to stay on track in what will be an intensive academic program, Pezzelle said.

"This is competitive," he said. "It's cream-of-the-crop program. You don't want an average or below-average student taking care of your health care needs. The best qualified and most serious students will move on."

Those who succeed will find good jobs waiting, according to Linda Hunt, director of project training for Health and Education Opportunity on the Flathead campus.

"They will have living wages with very good benefits," she said. "There is great demand at facilities in Libby and Kalispell. The jobs are there. We've gotten a lot of phone calls from people asking us when we're going to start this program."

Hunt said both communities will benefit, too, from an improvement in quality of life for residents.

"We're going to be adding more quality health care," she said.

Pezzelle praised Hunt for getting the program off the ground about nine months earlier than anticipated.

"Credit for this also goes to Linda for including the Lincoln County campus as part of the program," he said.

The first semester courses include anatomy and physiology, freshman English, chemistry with a lab, and introduction to nursing.

Based on how students do on those courses, Hunt said, the college will approve applicants to continue in the 72-credit program.

"The schedule allows students to see if nursing is right for them, and we will look at their results," she said.

Besides grades, applicants will be evaluated as to whether they have any allied health experience, volunteerism in allied health fields, and a written essay. Students who continue into the second year will take pharmacology, fundamentals of nursing, gerontology, core concepts of adult nursing, core concepts of maternal/child nursing, and nursing care of clients with alterations is psycho-social integrity.

"The required courses are rigorous," Hunt said.

Another reason that entry into the program doesn't officially begin until the second year is because the academic program still needs approval from the State Board of Regents, which meets in September, and the State Board of Nursing, which will review the proposal in October.

There will be some economic benefit in Libby for adding the nursing degree program. Pezzelle said he will be hiring three or four instructors with bachelor of science degrees in nursing, as well as someone with a master's degree in chemistry or 18 graduate level credits in chemistry.

The program also requires a director with a master's degree in nursing. That position will be added on the Kalispell campus.

Pezzelle noted that the nursing program results from local residents requesting that it be created.

"This is a response to community voices," he said.