River Valley Community College adds nursing program to Claremont campus

  • River Valley Community College Professor Melanie Whitaker, right, and student Hannah Everitt practice wound treatment in River Valley’s simulation lab for nursing and LPN. (Courtesy River Valley Community College)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 12/29/2019 10:17:35 PM
Modified: 12/29/2019 10:17:22 PM

CLAREMONT — River Valley Community College is slated to begin welcoming students to a new licensed practical nursing program on its Claremont campus next month.

The program, which has been in the works since this summer, is just the third in New Hampshire and is the northernmost and the only one in the western part of the state.

It aims to help fill the need for nurses of all levels across the region, said Eileen Glover, the program director.

“We’re perfectly poised to cover (an area) hard hit with high vacancy rates,” Glover said in a Friday phone interview.

On the Vermont side of the Upper Valley, Vermont Tech offers an LPN program at its Randolph Center campus and at its site in White River Junction.

But employers such as hospitals, nursing homes and long-term care facilities have been “clamoring for years” for a training program in this part of New Hampshire, Glover said.

The program, which is made possible partly through a grant from the New Hampshire Department of Business and Economic Affairs, is the “culmination of several years of advocacy and support from the folks looking to fill these positions,” Glover said.

News that the new program has received approval from the New Hampshire Board of Nursing and that the first students are set to begin classes Jan. 21 was greeted with enthusiasm Friday by Sullivan County Manager Derek Ferland.

“RVCC’s LPN program dovetails perfectly with the regional economic development work Sullivan County has been working on the past couple of years,” Ferland said in an email. “Workforce development for the healthcare career field has been identified as an area of national need and our area is no exception.”

County employees could use the county’s tuition-assistance program to enroll in the program and the county’s nursing home in Unity may become a clinical training site for the program, April Bartley, the county’s director of nursing, said in an email.

Kim Carboneau, director of human resources at Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital in Lebanon, also welcomed the news.

“LPNs from community colleges tend to remain committed to their area and perform wonderfully in ambulatory clinics, long-term care and assisted living establishments like APD’s Harvest Hill,” Carboneau said in an emailed statement. “We look forward to working with RVCC to hire new graduates.”

APD often has two or three openings for LPNs, whose salaries range from $18.85 to $31.43 per hour, APD spokeswoman Kelli Pippin said in an email.

Though the hospital doesn’t often employ LPNs in its medical and surgical wing because they don’t have the broad scope of practice needed for that setting, bringing more on board in New Hampshire could help address the state’s broader workforce challenges, said Ruth Cole, clinical nurse educator at APD.

“… the LPN is essentially walking through the door to a nursing profession,” Cole said in an email.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock has 21 open LPN positions system-wide, including 11 in Lebanon, D-H spokeswoman Audra Burns said in an email.

Visiting Nurse and Hospice for VT and NH, which like APD is a D-H affiliate, is seeking LPNs for its home care teams.

In addition to employers, Glover said students also have expressed interest in the program.

Even before Thursday’s news release announcing the program would begin next month went out, Glover said she had already received more than 100 inquiries from prospective students.

“Every day, messages are coming fast and furious,” Glover said.

Some of them would come to the program with a background in health care, such as licensed nursing assistants, medical assistants or emergency medical technicians, Glover said. Others do not have that background but are looking to make a change, she said.

Along the nursing career ladder, LPNs sit above licensed nursing assistants but below registered nurses. In addition to earning a certificate through a program like RVCC’s, LPNs are required to pass a licensing exam and obtain a state license.

The core courses of the LPN program can be completed in three semesters as a full-time student, Glover said. Students who do not live in New Hampshire but do live within 50 miles of any of RVCC’s three campuses in Claremont, Keene and Lebanon can qualify for in-state tuition, Glover said.

RVCC plans to begin offering a licensed nursing assistant program in the coming year and to expand the LPN program to its Lebanon and Keene campuses in January 2021, Glover said.

The program will start with an enrollment of 16 students and work up to a maximum of 32, Glover said.

To enroll, applicants need to have passed a nursing entrance exam; have had high school or college chemistry; submit a high school transcript, GED score or High School Equivalency Test score; and be a licensed nursing assistant.

More information is available at rivervalley.edu or by contacting Glover at 603-542-7744 ext. 5422 or eglover@ccsnh.edu.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.

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