RVCC opens nursing program in Lebanon

  • Melanie Barton, center, and her fellow River Valley Community College nursing assistant students Cailey Gunn, left, and Scott Randall, second from left, give a tour of the college’s new nursing lab to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Vice President of Nursing Michelle Buck, second from right, and D-H Chief Nurse Karen Clements, right, in Lebanon, N.H., Thursday, July 16, 2020. The college celebrated the final approval of its nursing assistant program by the New Hampshire Board of Nursing with a ribbon cutting attended by D-H administrators and members of local government. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news — James M. Patterson

  • Members of the first cohort of River Valley Community College’s nursing assistant program and program manager Flora Meyer, third from left, attend a ribbon cutting at the college in Lebanon, N.H., Thursday, July 16, 2020. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news — James M. Patterson

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/17/2020 8:58:16 AM
Modified: 7/17/2020 8:58:10 AM

LEBANON — Officials from River Valley Community College and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center celebrated the opening of a new nursing training facility with a ribbon cutting at River Valley’s downtown Lebanon campus on Thursday afternoon.

The roughly 30 people gathered all wore masks and submitted to a health check upon entering the building.

The rare gathering in an age of social distancing gave the college a chance to show that there are “still educational opportunities and career opportunities even in the face of the COVID pandemic,” said Dan Osborn, the college’s coordinator of workforce development.

The new facility, located in the basement of the former Lebanon College building on the pedestrian mall in the heart of downtown, is part of River Valley’s efforts to help meet the need of the region’s health care providers for nursing assistants and licensed practical nurses.

The partnership with health care providers works both ways, said Eileen Glover, River Valley’s LPN program director.

River Valley is “developing curriculum based on what they need” and the hospitals and other providers are “giving us clinical environments for students to learn in,” Glover said in a phone call earlier this week.

The first group of students training to become licensed nursing assistants in River Valley’s new space in Lebanon began classes last month.

The six students, who are sponsored by Dartmouth-Hitchcock, are expected to complete the program in seven weeks, with 40 hours of lecture, 24 hours of lab work and 60 hours of clinical time.

“I want to hire you all,” Karen Clements, D-H’s chief nursing officer, said to the LNA students, all six of whom were in attendance on Thursday.

The list of job openings on D-H’s website came up with 64 results for licensed nursing assistants and medical assistants on Thursday. The nearby Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital has openings for six LNAs, according to its website.

LNAs make an average of $16.83 per hour in the Lebanon-Hanover area, according to the New Hampshire Employment Security, Economic and Labor Market Information Bureau.

Martha Ilsley, the New Hampshire regional director of operations for Bear Mountain, which owns Hanover Terrace Health and Rehabilitation Center on Lyme Road, said that River Valley’s program will serve a need.

“It is absolutely vital to our community,” Ilsley said in a phone interview on Thursday. “It’s certainly hard to recruit and retain staffing.”

Hanover Terrace currently relies on a temporary agency to keep the nursing home fully staffed.

“In a perfect world,” the facility would fill openings for three full-time registered nurses, one part-time and four full-time LPNs and 12 LNAs with permanent hires, Ilsley said.

The six students sponsored by D-H began classes in the new space in Lebanon in late June.

LNA courses for other River Valley students and the general public will begin in September in Lebanon, and LPN classes are slated to begin in Lebanon in January, said Josh Lamoureux, River Valley’s associate vice president of strategy & workforce development.

(The LNA course costs about $1,700 without scholarships.)

A registered nursing program is slated to begin operation in 2022.

On the Vermont side of the Upper Valley, Randolph Center-based Vermont Technical College offers an LPN program, but River Valley’s is the only one in western New Hampshire.

River Valley began offering its LPN program in Claremont last January. The first fifteen students in that group are on track to graduate at the end of next semester, Glover said.

She expects they’ll take a required national exam in January.

Ultimately, River Valley plans to offer LNA, LPN and RN programs at all three of its campuses — Claremont, Lebanon and Keene, Lamoureux said.

The $78,000 renovations in Lebanon, which involved removing a wall between two classrooms, were funded with support from the Mascoma Bank Foundation and the Jack and Dorothy Byrne Foundation, Lamoureux said.

On Thursday, the new space was set up for an LNA class with three beds complete with mannequins and supplies such as gloves and bed pans.

The LNA students were dressed in black scrubs awaiting the beginning of their evening course. It was to be their first day of “clinicals,” where they would be pretending to care for real patients.

The students are learning how to help patients with what are known as “activities of daily living,” including hair brushing, bathing and dressing, said Alexis Ippolito, a 19-year-old Grantham resident and 2019 graduate of Lebanon High School, who said she hopes to continue her nursing education after completing the LNA program.

“It’s been really good,” Ippolito said.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-737-3213.

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