TSTC Filling Nursing Needs in Stephens County

(BRECKENRIDGE) – Texas State Technical College is helping to keep quality medical care available in Stephens County.

“The local Vocational Nursing program has been a tremendous asset to our field physicians in our hospitals, nursing homes and clinics,” said Virgil Moore, executive director of the Breckenridge Economic Development Corporation and a member of The TSTC Foundation Board of Directors. “It definitely helps fill a gap, and we are fortunate in Breckenridge that we have something like that available. Most rural communities do not.”

TSTC’s Breckenridge campus offers a certificate in Vocational Nursing and currently has 12 students in the program. Students take classes in basic nursing, pharmacology, medical terminology, medication administration and applied nursing skills. Some of the training is done on medical simulation dummies that can be programmed to mimic a range of health situations.

“The program covers a wide variety of skills,” said Trisha Otts, interim director of the Vocational Nursing program in West Texas, but who will become permanent director at the end of February. “We get a lot of the students straight out of high school. The main hurdle is getting clear background checks from the Texas Board of Nursing.”

There were more than 70 full-time licensed vocational nurses in Stephens County as of September 2016, according to the most recent information from the Texas Board of Nursing. Most of the county’s licensed vocational nurses worked in general practices, geriatrics, surgical areas and home health.

Chris Curtis, practice administrator at Breckenridge Medical Center, which is owned by Stephens Memorial Hospital, said a majority of the nurses are TSTC graduates.

“Without the nursing program, we would really struggle to find nurses,” Curtis said. “TSTC is where they all come from. They do their clinical sessions at the clinic and the hospital, and this gives them an idea of what they want to do in their careers.”

The technical college is a tool Moore uses to attract new companies to the county.

“Finding skilled labor is a big challenge,” Moore said. “The smaller the area you are talking about, the more of a challenge it is. A lot of times we rely on basically a promise that we are going to supply you with a skilled workforce, and you tell us the skills you need and we can train the people locally to fill those jobs. It’s worked out really well for us.”

Otts, a graduate of TSTC, said she envisions working with area school districts in the future to try to provide dual enrollment opportunities for high school students interested in nursing.

Open House will be held at TSTC in Breckenridge from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 24. For more information, go to tstc.edu/openhouse.

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