News - 05/23/2014

MiraCosta College Nursing Program Graduates 21 RNs

MiraCosta College Nurse Pinning Ceremony 2014

Trudy Hiatt wanted to become a registered nurse after helping her mother recover from a serious illness. Amanda Lay was motivated while watching nurses calm frantic families at a hospital following the Virginia Tech massacre. Aren Kagan had spent several years in the Marine Corps and was training to become a firefighter before he realized his true calling was in nursing.

The three joined 18 other graduates of MiraCosta College’s Registered Nursing Program in earning their nursing pins during a May 21 ceremony at the Oceanside Campus Theatre. The graduates are now eligible to take the National Council Licensure Examination, the last stop needed before becoming a registered nurse.

Since the Registered Nursing Program was instituted at MiraCosta College seven years ago, the passing rate among students has hovered between 92 and 100 percent, with 308 MiraCosta College graduates earning their registered nursing license.

Many, like Kagan, will continue with their studies. “It’s very competitive,” Kagan said. “But this is what I want to do. I can’t believe it took me so long to figure it out.”

Graduates have travelled different paths to reach the stage at the MiraCosta College Theatre. Hiatt was a licensed vocational nurse when she enrolled in the MiraCosta College Registered Nursing Program.

“The duties that an RN does and the environment they work in really interested me,” said Hiatt, a 50-year-old Escondido resident.  “I felt I could help more people as an RN.”

Licensed vocational nurses can be found working in rehabilitation facilities and nursing homes. “Their duties are very limited as far as acute care,” Hiatt noted. “I really like the acute care environment. It’s much faster paced, the scope of the practice involves more critical thinking and it gives you more flexibility in your career path.”

Hiatt, 50, is a former accountant who became a stay-at-home mom and professional volunteer while raising her children, who range in age from 12 to 26. She studied to become a licensed vocational nurse while taking care of her mother several years ago. She plans to enroll in a graduate nursing program in the fall. Her peers also designated her as class speaker at the pinning ceremony.

She noted during her speech how far the 21 nursing students had come in the past two years. “We were all strangers. We all had our stories to share. But there was one common theme: we all wanted to make a difference. We all wanted to help people when they are most vulnerable.”

Lay was among those celebrating. She earned a bachelor of science degree in animal sciences from Virginia Tech in 2009, but moved to North County when her husband, Marine Capt. James Lay, was stationed at Camp Pendleton. She immediately enrolled in the MiraCosta College Nursing Program. 

She was a student at Virginia Tech when a senior at the school shot and killed 17 people and wounded 17 others in April 2007. Lay, who was unharmed, joined a group of friends visiting area hospitals, doing what they could to comfort families of the wounded.

“I was just sitting there in the waiting room with my friends and I was watching the nurses interacting with the families, so cool among the chaos, getting their work done, making everybody feel better, just being so professional while doing their job,” said Lay, who later moved to Oceanside with her Marine husband. “It was really inspiring. I decided then that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a nurse and impact people on a positive basis every day.”

Nurses make up the largest group of licensed health care professionals in the country. By 2020, there will be 1.2 million job openings for registered nurses, including 470,000 openings for RNs with associate degrees, according to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce. And there will be 370,000 job openings for licensed practical nurses and licensed vocational nurses – 134,000 of which will be for LPNs and LVNs with associate degrees.

“You have chosen a selfless service to others, a noble profession,” MiraCosta College Superintendent/President Francisco Rodriguez told the group. “It is a calling…to this greater duty to serve others.”

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