ST. PETERSBURG — Nursing is a profession that attracts people who not only have a sense of compassion but feel a genuine need to help, heal and nurture others. Modern nursing in this country only goes back to the mid-19th century, and is now a respected profession and a competitive field, with schools the world over offering programs and classes.
Close to home, Pinellas Technical Education Center (pTEC) offers Practical Nursing as one of its many popular courses. There are about 10 instructors to guide students in the care of pediatric, obstetric and geriatric patients. Students, which can range from teenagers to senior citizens, also receive training in caring for convalescent, physically challenged and rehabilitative patients.
“We start out with Health Core classes, which is just an introduction to health care and the different type of heath fields they can get into,” explained St. Pete native Janie Johnson, who has been teaching at pTEC for 22 years. “Then they go into CNA, which is Certified Nursing Assistant. They can move to C1, which is your first aid, then C2, which is pharmacology and all of the diseases and disorders of each system and C3 is your mental health.”
Practical Nursing is offered at both Clearwater and St. Pete pTEC locations and the course gives teens and adults who are interested in the medical field the opportunity to gain valuable hands-on experience.
Janie Johnson, pTEC
“They’re doing dressing changes, they’re being taught suctioning through a trach [tracheostomy tube], how to pass medication, whichever route, except I.V. They’re also taught enemas and catheterization,” said Johnson, who graduated from USF with a Master’s Degree in Science and a concentration in Community Health Nursing.
Though those exercises are realistic simulations, students have the chance to work on real patients when they go out into the field to hospitals and various local nursing homes.
“They’re doing clinicals from 7:30 in the morning to 2:30 in the afternoon and they may be out there for two weeks to a month, sometimes three months, according to what area they are into in their nursing practice,” Johnson said.
As the president of the St. Pete chapter of the Black Nurses Association, Johnson also leads students out into the community to take part in health fairs, where they can assist with tasks such as taking blood pressure and giving clients information regarding health.
The entire program is 1350 hours and once students successfully complete these hours then they can sit for the Board of Nursing, Johnson said. They must pass the Florida Board of Nursing exam to become a licensed practical nurse.
If they need assistance in placement, students can rely on pTEC to help in that department.
“Many times they find their own jobs,” Johnson said. “But we are instrumental in giving them recommendations, letters and things of that nature.”
In this electronic age, many courses are offered as online options these days, and pTEC is no exception. But even students who choose to take the course online get first-hand training and experience.
“They come in two nights a week and go out on weekends and do 10 hour days, Saturday and Sunday,” Johnson explained. “But they get some clinical time, hands-on simulation in the classroom as well.”
For some, it may be a chance at a second career or simply another direction in life. Johnson attests that students are of all ages, experience and education.
“Oh my gosh, I’ve taught people from 17 years old to 63,” she said. “And the 63 year old had a master’s degree.”
Whatever the background of their students, for instructors like Johnson it is hugely satisfying to see them ultimately become a part of this noble profession.
“What I like most about teaching is giving back to the community,” she said. “Teaching people to take care of others and to have that compassion and caring for others. That’s what I like. To take a person who has never done this before, and the next time you see them they have completed school and gone on to become an LPN and they’re doing extraordinary work in their field.”
If nursing is a career path you choose to take, please visit myptec.org or call 727-893-2500. Financial aid is available.