Nursing program founder turns over reins

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After seven years, Marilyn Bouldin is ready to let a program she helped found become someone else's baby.

Bouldin announced her resignation Monday as the Colorado Northwestern Community College nursing program director.

"It's just time," she said. "My poor husband hasn't seen much of me."

Bouldin was part of an advisory committee formed six years ago to explore the feasibility of creating a nursing program in Craig.

Determining need was easy. The entire country was in the midst of a nursing shortage that experts said was nowhere near ending. Every health care business in Craig was feeling the pinch.

Making the program feasible, though, was the challenge. Interest was high. More than 30 residents of Moffat, Routt and Rio Blanco counties attended the committee meeting.

"Right away, that said a lot about the need," Bouldin said.

When the college advertised for a nursing program director, Bouldin realized she was qualified and excited about the challenge of creating a new program.

She was hired in January 2003 and worked closely with the state board of nursing to develop a program.

Eight months later, Marilyn Hehr was hired to help coordinate the first-year program -- practical nursing -- and teach the first-year students.

Hehr will replace Bouldin when she leaves June 30.

"I'm leaving the program in good hands," Bouldin said. "Marilyn has been with me since the beginning. I'm so relieved there is someone so capable to take over."

There are 13 community colleges in Colorado, 11 of which have nursing programs. By the fall 2006 semester, all should have the same curriculum, making nursing a two-year program with the ability to opt out after the first year. Currently, students earn their practical nursing license in the first year and then must re-enroll for the second year to earn an associate's degree and the ability to become a registered nurse. The prerequisites required to enter the program also will be changed.

"We're just going to assure that high-quality students are entering the program," she said.

Although there are benefits, the transition won't be easy, which is why Bouldin offered to remain until June 30 and then be available as a consultant after that.

"I'm not leaving the community," she said.

Instead, she'll be able to do more work with groups such as Habitat for Humanity and the Craig Rotary Club.

She also plans to travel with her husband, who retired five years ago.

"We don't have any big plans yet," Bouldin said.

In its first year, the program had 33 applications for 18 slots. This year, the program was expanded to 22 slots.

One hundred percent of the first class of L.P.N.s passed their state exams last year, an accomplishment Bouldin is proud of and said reflects well on the program.

Community college officials said Bouldin will be missed.

"Bouldin has put forth an incredibly successful program that has produced more than 30 nurses over the past two years," college spokeswoman Becky Dubert said.

Hehr said she has no plans to make any major changes.

"The program is going so well right now," she said. "I will try to follow a great deal of what we have already been doing."

Bouldin said the experience has been the most challenging and the most rewarding of her career.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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