Nursing graduates ready to serve their communities
Twenty-four nursing students from USC’s Salkehatchie and Lancaster campuses will be the first graduates of a program that allows students there to earn BSN degrees from the College of Nursing without traveling to Columbia for most of their classes or clinical training.
The 14 from Salkehatchie received their nursing degrees May 3, while the 10 students from Lancaster received their degrees May 1. Nursing graduates from the two campuses will also participate in the commencement at the Columbia campus May 7.
Salkehatchie and Lancaster faculty teach the first two years of nursing prerequisites, including anatomy, physiology and microbiology. USC Columbia nursing faculty teach the upper division nursing courses through distance education technology.
“This is a multi-dimensional public/private effort aimed at putting more people to work in health care,” said Ann Carmichael, dean of USC Salkehatchie. “It addresses the rural nursing shortage, puts people to work in higher-paying jobs, and offers opportunities for students who can’t leave their communities because of personal obligations.”
USC Salkehatchie’s program was launched with seed funding from the Sisters of Charity of South Carolina, The Duke Endowment and the S.C. Blue Cross/Blue Shield Foundation. USC Lancaster received a $1 million start-up grant from the Dallas-based Tenet Corporation, which owns Piedmont Medical Center in Rock Hill, a clinical training site for Lancaster nursing students.
Hospitals in the five-county region served by USC Salkehatchie—Colleton Medical Center, Allendale County Hospital, Hampton Regional Medical Center, Bamberg County Hospital and Barnwell County Hospital—provided equipment for training labs at the Allendale and Walterboro campuses.
Salkehatchie and Lancaster currently limit the number of students who can advance to the upper division to 16 students on each campus. Those students complete all of their clinical requirements at hospitals and other healthcare sites close to the respective campuses.
“This program is a great idea, and it’s been a rigorous process to get all of the pieces in place,” said Peggy Hewlett, dean of the College of Nursing at USC Columbia. “We couldn’t have done it without our funding partners, our clinical partners and, of course, our dedicated faculty. We’re really pleased to see the first graduates come through and look forward to graduating many more nurses from Salkehatchie and Lancaster in the years ahead.”
Cindy McClure, USC Salkehatchie’s nursing coordinator, said the program has attracted scores of students, many of whom could not pursue a nursing degree at another institution.
“A lot of our nursing students are married, have families and have jobs,” McClure said. “It’s definitely an opportunity for them to advance in their own communities.”
For the students at Lancaster and Salkehatchie, advancing to the upper division is as competitive as it is on the Columbia campus, where the number of slots is much lower than the number applying. Many of the Salkehatchie nursing students received financial assistance from local hospitals and will work at those institutions following graduation.
“A lot of these students want to stay in this area. They don’t want to leave, and this program is providing an opportunity for our hospitals to hire these people after they graduate,” Carmichael said.
Walterboro native Michelle Avant has worked full time as a nursing technician in the emergency room at Colleton Medical Center while attending USC Salkehatchie. After graduating with honors, the mother of two teenaged sons will become an ER nurse at the hospital. “It’s been a journey,” she said.
Salkehatchie student Dalyn Ford, who lives in the town of Sycamore near Allendale, completed her course work at the Allendale campus and plans to take the licensure exam in June to become a registered nurse in the community.
Kelvin Brooks, who lives in St. George, attended classes at Walterboro.
“Ultimately, I would like to work for the Veterans Administration, providing patient care for military veterans,” said Brooks, who was a commissioned Army officer before beginning the nursing program at USC Salkehatchie. “Possibly, I’ll go back one day to get a master’s degree.”