CNCC nursing program led by alumnus |

CNCC nursing program led by alumnus

Sue Samaniego/For Craig Press
Erica Yantzer demonstrates infant care using the nursing simulation lab infant.
Sue Samaniego/courtesy

It was a bit of luck that connected Erica Yantzer to Colorado Northwestern Community College.

Though she had been living in Steamboat Springs and Craig for many years, her plan was to attend nursing school in Rock Springs, Wyoming, where she could stay with family during her studies. But, a radio advertisement announcing the addition of a nursing program at CNCC caught her ear and changed her path.

Yantzer began nursing school with the start of CNCC’s nursing program in 2003. She graduated with the first nursing class in 2005.

Yantzer fondly recalled classmates and mentors Marilyn Bolden and Marilyn Hehr. She laughed that the class motto was “nothing is set in stone,” a nod to the fact that new programs tend to change as they develop. Her graduating class presented faculty with a piece of sandstone with the motto written on it in marker.

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After graduation, Yantzer began her career as a public health nurse in a prenatal plus program that provided young mothers with education and guidance to help them access the resources needed to raise a healthy child and maintain their own health. Because her drive to become a nurse began with a desire to work in OB/labor and delivery, Yantzer moved on to work at The Memorial Hospital in Craig, both in the OB department and the medical/surgical units.

Her career path led to OB work in Montrose and Glenwood Springs, long term care in Steamboat, and finally, back to CNCC as a nursing instructor. As her career developed, Yantzer earned a master’s degree in nursing from Walden University.

At CNCC, Yantzer began as a part-time instructor, moved into a full-time instructor position, and now directs the nursing program. This semester, she is also teaching courses in the program.

Asked what is special about CNCC’s nursing program, Yanzer touted the high level of care instructors invest in their students.

“Instructors provide a lot of one-on-one attention,” Yantzer said. “Faculty genuinely care about students, and they take into account the life circumstances of each student.”

Speaking of the students, Yantzer said she admires their perseverance and resiliency.

“Their strength is unreal,” she exclaimed. “These students have so much going on in their lives, and they just keep going.”

The most difficult part of the nursing program is the workload.

“This program is all-consuming,” Yantzer said. “It is very difficult to balance the needs of your personal life with the demands of nursing school. The plus side is that you develop bonds with your classmates that are lifelong, and you get a life-changing career.”

Asked what is next for the CNCC nursing program, Yantzer said it is expanding.

“We are growing to include larger classes so we can meet the needs of our communities. We will also be adding the BSN program, with the target start date set for fall 2020. I am hoping that, as we grow, we will see other alumni come back to CNCC to teach.”

The CNCC nursing program has many partners in Northwest Colorado, including Memorial Regional Health, Yampa Valley Medical Center, Veterans Affairs and Saint Mary’s in Grand Junction, the Steamboat Group, Northwest Colorado Health, local schools, and others. New partnerships are being worked out as the program expands.

Asked what she loves most about being director of the nursing program, Yantzer said it is the challenge.

“This job challenges me every day. I have a strong belief that, if you are not uncomfortable, you are not growing,” Yantzer said. “I am growing. I also love having the opportunity to advance my career. There are no barriers.”

Yantzer said she has never believed in barriers. She had five children younger than age 8 when she attended nursing school. She now has seven children and two grandchildren and is seriously considering starting work toward a doctorate in nursing.

To learn more about the nursing program at CNCC, contact Darby McDermott at 970-824-1104 or .

Sue Samaniego is the director of Colorado Northwestern Community College Foundation. She writes a regular newsletter to donors and has agreed to share stories about CNCC students and programs with the Craig Press. Contact Samaniego at 970-675-3216 or

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