(BRECKENRIDGE) — Northeast of the hustle and bustle of metropolitan Abilene is a hospital with a big heart. Eastland Memorial Hospital, the only hospital to serve the residents of Eastland County, is home to local heroes who answered the call to become health care providers.
Some of these professionals are graduates of Texas State Technical College’s nursing program.
“This is a rural community, and TSTC assists in providing a quality education and necessary service that is so important for this community,” said TSTC alumna Brandi Riley, a registered nurse who is manager of Outpatient/Surgery Services and Education at EMH.
Currently there are five TSTC graduates employed with EMH. Some students started their nursing careers at TSTC, while others studied online to further their education.
“I graduated from TSTC with my LVN in 2010 from the Breckenridge campus, and I went back in 2016 to the associate degree in nursing LVN to RN bridge program at the Sweetwater campus,” said Megan Drake, EMH’s supervisor of Infection Control, Risk Management and Employee Health. “I chose TSTC because it is so much more affordable compared to larger universities where you get the same degree.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is a rising demand for LVNs and RNs, and the employment growth rate in Texas is higher than the national average.
“We hire new RNs and LVNs and encourage students to do their clinicals with us to get their foot through the door,” Riley said. “We are working on a partnership with the Breckenridge campus to get LVNs and RNs doing clinicals here and recruit some new faces.”
For those at Eastland, the hospital is a community and an opportunity to hone new skills.
“Eastland is smaller, but I feel that I get a broader range of skills rather than working in a larger hospital, where I’d have to focus on one specific department,” Drake said.
Many of the staff employed by Eastland have earned their RN degrees through TSTC’s online program while working full time as an LVN.
“I was working for Eastland already as an LVN, and they helped to pay for me to go to TSTC to become an RN. And that’s when I earned the position I’m in now,” Riley said.
For others, like registered nurse Belinda Williams, TSTC is a family affair. Williams earned her associate degree in nursing, her daughter graduated from the Chemical Dependency Counseling program in Breckenridge, and her husband earned his commercial driver’s license after completing TSTC’s professional driver training in Sweetwater.
“I love that you go and learn what it is that you are pursuing career-wise, and it’s cheaper than regular college. It’s a great place to get an education, and it’s a fun school that cares about its students,” said Williams, RN case manager/utilization review and quality manager at EMH.
As the need for qualified nurses rises, Riley reminds potential students to think of why they chose to pursue a career in nursing.
“You have to have a love for nursing. It’s not about the income, but caring for patients and giving the best patient care possible,” Riley said.
Registration for fall classes at TSTC is underway. For more information, visit tstc.edu.