(BRECKENRIDGE) – Mercedes Burkhart, 23, of Stamford is studying Vocational Nursing at Texas State Technical College in Breckenridge and is scheduled to graduate with a certificate in December. She is a 2012 graduate of Stamford High School in Jones County.
Is helping people in their times of need instilled in your family? “I’ve always been in health care. I watched my mother, who was a social worker, work with her cases. Nobody in my family is a nurse, but I knew I wanted to help people.”
How did you learn about TSTC in Breckenridge? “I’m already a certified nursing assistant and I work at Hendrick Health System in Abilene. After years of schooling, I decided to complete something. I wanted to get some type of certificate. My fiance’s stepmother works at the campus in recruiting. She talked to me about TSTC and the Vocational Nursing program in general. I heard more by word of mouth and applied. When I turned my packet in, that’s when I saw the campus for the first time.”
What is a typical week like for you? “We wear scrubs to clinicals. I work Sunday nights and have class at 1 p.m. on Mondays. Tuesdays are all-day classes until 4 p.m. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, I do clinicals at Cisco Nursing and Rehabilitation (in Eastland County), so I have to wake up at 4 a.m. and drive from Abilene to Cisco. On Fridays we do not have classes, so I catch up on homework and then go back to work on the weekends.I also do a lot of volunteer work.”
Did you participate in SkillsUSA Texas’ state contests held in late March at TSTC in Waco? “I gave a prepared speech in which I picked three topics and combined them into a five- to seven-minute speech. I did Family, Career and Community Leaders of America in high school, which was a lot like this. I was the first person from Stamford to go to FCCLA’s national competition twice.”
What advice would you give to high school students thinking about college and careers? “I wish someone had told me about technical schools instead of four-year universities. Coming from a smaller town to a large university was a culture shock. You should actually look into your options and don’t let someone push you where they need you to go. Go where you feel comfortable.”
Texas had more than 78,000 licensed practical and vocational nurses in spring 2016, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Woodlands-Houston-Sugar Land area had the largest concentration of vocational and practical nurses in the state, with more than 12,800 employed.
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. Jones County had more than 130 full-time licensed vocational nurses as of September 2016, according to the state board of nursing.
For more information on TSTC’s Vocational Nursing or other technical programs, go to tstc.edu.