Nursing students hitting their strides

Colorado Northwestern Community College program, in its sixth week, 'difficult, rewarding'

Scott Murrell is a certified nurses aide, but he has aspired to achieve higher goals in the nursing world for some time.

The Steamboat Springs resident waited for a year and a half to be accepted into the nursing program at Colorado Northwestern Community College's Craig campus. He is planning to become a licensed practical nurse by the end of the school year and a full registered nurse by the end of the two-year program.

Murrell said days that begin at 7 a.m. and often last until 10 p.m. are tough but well-worth the effort.

"It's going great. I thought it would be worse than it is," Murrell said about the classes. "Everybody said that the first six weeks was the hardest part, and I'm almost done with that."

Originally from New Jersey, Murrell moved to Steamboat Springs five years ago, and graduated three years ago with the first nursing class ever to graduate from CNCC.

He has been working at Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs and has the goal of one day working in the main trauma unit in the emergency room of a major hospital.

"The instructors are outstanding, and the college does a great job," Murrell said. "I can recommend that potential students be involved in health care before getting into the program."

There are 24 students in each year of the two-year programs, which director Marilyn Hehr said she is excited about.

"The students are working extremely hard. It's doing wonderful," Hehr said.

Hehr, who is in her first year as director, said that a new curriculum is in place to accommodate the new, two-year program.

In the past, students would finish the first year and take a state board exam to qualify as licensed practical nurses. They would have to re-enroll for the second year program to become a registered nurse.

Students now sign up for a two-year program to achieve that goal, and they have the option of testing for the LPN certification after their first year.

The first-year nursing students are doing well in their sixth week of school, Hehr said, but this week is also a turning point.

"They will all be starting 'clinicals' (hands-on training) on Wednesday at Sandrock Ridge (Care & Rehab)," Hehr said. "They will be busy, busy for the next five weeks."

As the vice president of the student body government for nursing, Murrell said this year's students are succeeding. But he hopes that potential students are prepared for the sacrifices made by nursing students.

"They pump it up as being really difficult, and it is tough, it definitely is," he said. "But it's very rewarding."

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