Graduating from Johnston Community College’s nursing program is much more than earning an associate’s degree.
One of the oldest programs at the College, JCC’s nursing program prides itself on a history of excellence.
In 2017, the first-time pass rate of JCC nursing graduates on the NCLEX-RN exam was 98 percent and 95 percent over the past three years. The state average is 81 percent and the national average is 85 percent. JCC’s program is also ranked the fourth best in North Carolina by RegisteredNursing.org based on past and present first-time pass rates.
“NCLEX pass rates are important because students need it to get a job,” explains Dr. Linda Smith, dean of health, wellness, and human services at JCC. “Our pass rates exceed both the national and state average. We are exemplary compared to other programs who have fallen behind.”
Also, last year the program earned full initial accreditation by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). Angela Swank, director of nursing education at JCC, said the national accreditation speaks to the quality of JCC’s program.
“This is a national accolade that recognizes programs that are instructing best practices for this profession,” she said. “It’s a hard achievement to make because the standards are excellent and is
why so few schools are able to achieve it.”
“This should speak volumes to any person looking for a school to study nursing,” Smith added. “You might get in, but an associate’s degree is only a piece of paper. You have to have the license to practice. It’s the whole package that’s important.”
JCC is approved by the North Carolina Board of Nursing to teach a total 105 first-year and second-year students. This year, the program has 56 second-level students, the highest in the program’s history.
Matt Payne came to JCC to study nursing after years of working in the pharmaceutical industry. With a bachelor’s degree in biology, he said he experienced a very welcoming admissions process from the start.
“The instructors are amazing,” he said. “Once I got here as a student, I really realized that. I’m a pretty demanding student when it comes to time, one that is here a lot studying and asking questions and the instructors are so receptive to that.”
Da’Channel Wesson is one of the youngest students in the program. At 19, she was accepted right after she graduated from high school.
While the program has been challenging, Wesson said the rigorous schedule has taught her how to be a better student and hopefully a better nurse.
“I’ve always known I wanted to help people,” Wesson said. “My grandmother was a CNA, and I watched her work and the care and passion she had for patients and I knew I wanted to do even more to help patients one day.”
“I have a very strict and meticulous schedule, and I set time limits for myself,” she added. “It takes discipline, but it can be done.”
Retention is an important element of the program’s success, Smith said. “It’s not about just getting you in the program, but getting you through the program. It’s an intense, rigorous program.”
Developing strategies like scholarships and faculty-led tutoring has helped students be successful in the program. “We still have a little bit of small, hometown relationships with our students. Even as we’ve grown over the years, we never lost that,” Smith says.
Nursing students interested in earning their bachelor’s degree can also take the RN to BSN pathway and seamlessly transfer from JCC to participating UNC System programs.
Swank and nursing faculty work hard to help students connect with nursing employers. The program boasts a 100-percent job placement rate six months after graduation. Earning potential starts between $45,000 and $55,000 for new graduates.
“Many hospitals come to campus and meet with and interview students while they are in the program,” Swank explains. “This gives the students an opportunity to talk to potential employers and learn about the different facilities to work. We offer interview preparation, resume preparation and one-on-one counseling with our students to help them be successful during this process.”
Swank offers this advice for students who are considering a career in nursing.
“You have to be dedicated,” she said. “It’s not a part-time profession. You’ve got to be serious from day one. I believe it’s not a student’s age, ethnicity or support system, but their individual determination that in the end makes them a good nurse.”
For more information about nursing at JCC, please visit http://www.johnstoncc.edu/programs/health-sciences/associate-degree-nursing/index.aspx.