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Three local FVCC nursing grads join Cabinet Peaks team

by The Western News
| June 7, 2024 7:00 AM

Flathead Valley Community College’s latest nursing program graduating class of 2024 is stepping directly into the workforce, taking positions in Kalispell and Libby. 

By choosing to stay and work in their home regions, they are making a significant impact on patient care and the overall quality of healthcare in their communities.

Out of 12 total graduates from the 2024 class, three Lincoln County graduates, Luke Dahm, Samantha Kumle and Christina Wilson, landed jobs at Cabinet Peaks Medical Center in Libby while seven graduates from Flathead County were hired by Logan Health in Kalispell and accepted into the Nurse Residency Program there. 

This program provides new nurses opportunities to develop their skills further in a supportive environment over a 12-month period which aids in their transition from an educational setting to a real-life, in-hospital, patient care setting.

“We love to have the FVCC graduates come to us and have the opportunity to keep our locals local. We feel like they’re well prepared, have good heads on their shoulders and perform well. Some did their clinicals here so they already have an idea of the organization and what the different units are like,” said Teri Steffens, RN Residency Program Coordinator at Logan Health.

Dr. Jim Bonnet, retired surgeon and longtime donor to the FVCC nursing program, recognized the essential role of highly skilled nurses early in his career.

“Any medical student will tell you that much of his or her early training in patient care came from the day-to-day interaction with dedicated nurses who were always eager to introduce us to the myriad of procedures and policies present in any modern hospital. Our professors taught us the medical complexities we had to learn, but it was the nurses who, to a great extent, taught us not only the many skills in their area of expertise, but also how to render kindness, hope and optimism when patients need it most,” Bonnet said during a recent interview.

Since the late 1970s, Dr. Bonnet has watched FVCC grow with opportunities in every direction. Having high quality programs right here in the valley that produce skilled members of our community continues to inspire his philanthropy.

“Changing a life is worthwhile. If you can enable a person who may not have been able to pursue a career and then to see them graduate and begin an entire new life, there’s nothing better,” he concluded.

One such changed life is 2024 nursing graduate Luke Dahm. With scholarship support from donors akin to Dr. Bonnet, Dahm made the drastic career change from pipe welder in the oil fields to registered nurse at Cabinet Peaks Medical Center in his hometown of Libby.

“My mom was a nurse and always told me I’d be a great nurse. I knew I had an affinity for helping people from working on ski patrol - the feeling of helping someone who is scared or injured and then seeing the look on their face when you solve the issue is really empowering,” said Dahm.

Making the decision to switch careers and take the first step toward a nursing career was big for Dahm as school hadn’t been his interest growing up. 

“Starting nursing school was intimidating at first, but I’ve always taken everything as a challenge. My perspective on school has been a huge confidence boost and it's probably one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life,” Dahm said.

One of the seven recent graduates joining the Logan Health’s Nurse Residency Program in July is Columbia Falls native Livia Jackola. After completing FVCC’s Nursing program and getting the job she wanted at Logan Health, Jackola credits part of her success to FVCC instructors and staff. 

“There’s so many people at FVCC that want you to succeed. With any issue or challenge, the answer is always yes, how can we help you do this,” Jackola said. “Nursing school is so study-intensive that you don’t have a lot of time to work. All the scholarships I received were such a help,” she added.

As the recipient of several scholarships, some particular to nursing, Jackola was able to minimize her out-of-pocket cost for college. 

FVCC Lincoln County Campus Nursing Coordinator Katie Johnson feels honored to support and encourage students such as Dahm and Jackola as they undertake the challenging task of nursing school.

“We want students to feel supported as individuals and as students. I hope it resonates with them when I acknowledge their hard work, understand their struggles and appreciate their sacrifices. Their education and success are vital to our community, as they are becoming a part of the next generation of caregivers for our families and friends. I feel so fortunate to witness their transformation into skilled, compassionate and resilient nurses during their time at FVCC,” Johnson shared.

FVCC awards over $1 million in scholarships each year to students across campus, providing the means to focus on their studies and have the opportunity to attend college when it might not have been possible otherwise. 

In-district Flathead and Lincoln County students could also qualify for tuition waivers in some cases worth up to two free semesters of college.

Together with vital funding options and robust on-campus support, the comprehensive education offered by FVCC’s Nursing program ensures that students are well-prepared to move directly into their chosen healthcare career right here where they live in Northwest Montana.

Learn more about FVCC’s Nursing program at fvcc.edu/nursing.

    Here are the 2024 graduates of the Flathead Valley Community College's nursing program. Back row, from left, are Kenna Anderson, Luke Dahm, Desiree Andujo, Lesli Frost, Samantha Kumle and Christy Wilson. Front row, from left, are Matti Dahl, Grace Schrader, Claudia Elfving-Ohlen, Livia Jackola, Krystal Eberhart and Tacie Creer. (FVCC photo)