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  • Paramedic-to-RN students embrace a shift in perspective

    (L to R) PCC Paramedic-to-RN students Chad Staggs, Nate Lenn and Karl Weber participate in their first feeding lab.

    Paramedic-to-RN students embrace a shift in perspective

    “Can I do anything else for you?” Chad Staggs asked his patient.

    It’s a routine question for a nurse to ask but it’s still a new step for Staggs and his fellow students in PCC’s Paramedic-to-RN program.

    The three-semester program was introduced this summer. PCC is the only community college in Colorado and the only one within a 400-mile radius to offer it.

    Most classes are online but labs and clinicals are held on campus. That’s why five of the seven Pueblo students in this all-male inaugural group were at the Pueblo campus. (Another student lives in Durango and participates at PCC’s Southwest campus in Mancos.)

    They were learning how to communicate with patients who need assistance eating. Each student took turns portraying nurse and patient. Some patients wore goggles smeared with Vaseline; it simulates the effects of glaucoma, making it difficult to see any food being offered. Others wore ear plugs to make it hard to hear a nurse’s instructions.

    The nurses had roles to play, too. One group entered the room talking to each other and kept their attention elsewhere throughout the feeding. The other immediately focused on the patients, chatted with them and made sure they had what they needed.

    “Did you feel the difference? You need to be focused on your patient and not each other,” instructor Sandra Medeiros said.

    All of the students are working paramedics with experience ranging from two to 20 years. They’ve worked for ambulance companies, government entities and fire departments. Though they take the coursework seriously, humor and candid comments are abundant.

    Moving from the adrenalized point-A-to-point-B world of a paramedic to the in-depth realm of nursing is an adjustment, the students said. Learning to slow down is a challenge. So is the idea of staying with a patient for longer than it takes to transport them to a hospital.

    One aspect of their current profession is already proving valuable as they learn a new career, however.

    “We’re used to talking to patients who are stressed out,” said Nate Lenn.

    Asked why they decided to enroll in the program, all cited similar reasons, particularly the physical toll of working as a paramedic and the greater opportunities available in nursing.

    “I wanted to advance my career and expand my knowledge,” said Darnell Corbin.

    Medeiros praised her students’ adaptability.

    “They’re definitely quick learners,” she said. “They have a solid foundation.”

    Graduates of the Paramedic-to-RN program will receive an Associate of Applied Science degree in nursing and will be eligible to take the National Council Licensure Examination to become a registered nurse. Entry-level salaries for RNs typically range from $54,000 to $62,000.

    Applicants must already have an Associate of Applied Science degree in emergency medicine from an accredited college, have at least two years of full-time work experience as a paramedic and have an unencumbered license. Veterans who worked as medics are also encouraged to apply.

    Registration for the spring 2020 program will open Sept. 1. For information, visit the PCC website or call 719-549-3409.

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    Founded in 1933, Pueblo Community College is a premier teaching institution focused on providing academic and service excellence to help its students acquire the 21st Century skills needed to better their lives. An educational and technological leader, PCC fosters economic development and utilizes strong partnerships in the communities it serves through its Pueblo, Fremont and Southwest campuses.