Given No. 1: People get sick.
Given No. 2: People get sick enough to go to a physician’s office or sometimes a hospital for treatment.
Given No. 3: Physicians get a lot of the glamour in health care, but much of the heavy lifting in those M.D. offices, clinics and hospitals, especially when it involves patient interactions, is done by nurses.
So it’s not surprising that nursing has perpetually been tabbed as “one of the fastest growing occupations in the U.S.,” with jobs pretty much ensured to be waiting for those who choose that career direction.
The present projection, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is for a 15 percent increase in demand in registered nurses (“much faster than average” in the BLS’ lingo) and a 12 percent increase in the demand for licensed practical and vocational nurses (“faster than average”) over the next decade. The respective median annual wages for those professions — $68,450 for RNs and $44,090 for LPNs and LVNs as of May 2016 — also is pretty attractive.
According to the Alabama Department of Labor, nursing ranks second to long-haul truck drivers in the number of online ads statewide, and the average hourly wage for nurses is $28.01.
For a half-century, men and women in Northeast Alabama (and sometimes elsewhere) with eyes on nursing as a career have been able to train at Gadsden State Community College, rather than in hospital-based programs (which were tough to get into and had multiple hoops that had to be traversed) or at four-year institutions (which posed problems for folks with family demands).
The college’s first nursing class in 1967 had 11 people. Since then, more than 4,000 people have graduated from the program. Today, there are 353 people enrolled in the RN program on the Wallace Drive and Cherokee campuses, and the LPN program at the McClellan Center in Anniston.
Based on their test scores, they leave GSCC obviously prepared to go to work. The most recent numbers, from 2016, show that 91.6 percent of Gadsden State’s RN students and 100 percent of its LPN students passed their licensing exams.
The college offers night, weekend and online classes to give students multiple options to receive training, and has relationships with other institutions across the state to facilitate students pursuing bachelor’s and master’s degrees if they’re interested.
We’re into a new year, so technically we can’t say “Happy 50th birthday,” but we can still salute Gadsden State’s nursing program for what it has accomplished and continues to accomplish.
There are true jewels in Gadsden. This is one of them.