Andrews students find niche in dual credit LVN program

ANDREWS — For students in Odessa College’s Andrews dual credit licensed vocational nurse program, having work once they finish school is assured.

The five students in this year’s class, graduating Aug. 3, have multiple job offers in some cases, even though they are still seniors at Andrews High School. They also have found satisfaction in their vocation. 

“This is the second class that will graduate from this particular program. Last year was our first cohort and they all passed their licensure exam on the first attempt, which is pretty amazing,” Vocational Nursing Instructor Yesenia Walsh said. 

From an instructor standpoint, Walsh said she thinks the secret is keeping the students to high standards and not letting up.  

“They have never ceased to rise to the occasion,” Walsh said. “They’re driven, so they most definitely answer to those demands.” 

Seniors Amaris Morris, Yissella Delgado, both 18, Rihanna Scott, Jose Rangel and Leeroy Marichalar, all 17, already have job offers for when they complete the program and earn their licenses. 

All had varying reasons for wanting to become a licensed vocational nurse. 

“I wanted to become an LVN because my brother had cystic fibrosis, and growing up saw how nurses helped, and played a big role in his life. I just wanted to be able to provide a helping hand like that,” Marichalar said. 

Morris went on a medical mission to Honduras. 

Delgado and Scott started off wanting to become athletic trainers, but wanted to help more people. 

Scott said she had a lot of family members who were affected by cancer, so she spent a lot of time in hospital settings. 

Rangel said he just wanted to help people. 

Although they’re young, the students are able to keep their composure even when patients are not at their best. 

“You’ve just got to love them as a person, even though that they’re in their hardest time. You’ve still got to love them because it’s what you do. It’s your profession. You’ve got to care for them… You love them at their worst,” Scott said.  

Delgado said you have to learn to have a poker face. 

“… Just sometimes it gets hard and you want to cry, but you can’t because (you’ve) got to be their strong person …,” Delgado said. 

Rangel said the patients are people, too, and have emotions.  

“You’re there at their worst. You’re there when they’re sad; when they’re mad, so I think it’s being more supportive and trying to uplift them in any way possible,” Rangel said. 

Marichalar said the LVNs have to maintain respect and dignity for patients, because it’s part of the job. 

“… You just have to smile through it,” Marichalar said.

Walsh said the students had this maturity to start with. 

“We saw this passion in them from the very beginning when we interviewed them because it does take a special person to go through a nursing program, in general, and it takes a really special person to do it in high school and make those sacrifices,” Walsh said.

She added that the program is a “very hard two years.”

“We ask a lot of them,” Walsh said. “A lot of these students, on top of nursing school and high school, they do other dual credit courses, as well, so that’s amazing. This past semester, the spring semester, every single Saturday for 12 hours they were at the hospital doing clinical hours,” Walsh said. 

Along with the interview, Walsh said the students’ high school GPAs and TSI results are viewed. The TSI, or Texas Success Initiative Assessment, determines the appropriate level of college course work for incoming students, according to the Mometrix Test Preparation website. 

“We get those scores; we interview them and get a feel for their personalities,” Walsh said.  

Students did their clinical at Medical Center Hospital. 

“The beauty of this program is that they have exposure to various facilities, so they’ve been here to the local nursing home; they’ll get to do the hospital here; they’ll get to do some clinics here. We try to get them to the bigger hospitals, as well, so that can hopefully get some job offers like they have been,” Walsh said. 

Clinicals will continue until the pinning ceremony. Walsh said students are encouraged to take the licensure exam within a month of graduation so everything is still fresh in their minds.

Walsh was a nurse at Permian Regional Medical Center in Andrews and Medical Center. She has been teaching at OC’s extension center in Andrews since August 2015. She has been a nurse since 2011.

“I just love to teach. There for a while I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to be a teacher or a nurse and I went and did nursing, got my degree in nursing education, so I could do the best of both worlds,” Walsh said.  

This group will make it 10 that have graduated from the Andrews LVN program. 

“Our students absolutely graduate with offers. It’s more than one facility that are wanting our students to want to come work for them. I think that speaks volumes about their work ethic,” Walsh said.

She added that the students are always being complimented on their professionalism, as well.  

“Honestly, a lot of times the nurses that they’re following don’t even know they’re high school students because they are that amazing,” Walsh said. 

OC Director of Media Relations Cheri Dalton said there are students who go through the LVN dual credit program who might not have had a chance to go to college otherwise. 

“It’s a great thing that both Odessa College and Andrews ISD have provided for these kids,” Walsh said.