Jael Rivera, left, with professor Debbie Smith and professor Jennifer Robinson, speakingKaren Newkirk with COM custodian Karen Dutt

After completing the rigorous College of the Mainland Licensed Vocational Nursing Program, Karen Newkirk, of Hitchcock, won the Outstanding Student Award, and Jael Rivera, of Texas City, earned the Outstanding Clinical Student Award.

Newkirk excelled in classroom and clinical coursework while exploring many branches of nursing including pediatrics, gerontology and mental health.

“I have wanted to be a nurse since I was in high school. After serving in the Air Force and working many years in the medical field as a receptionist, I decided to go after my dream. To be able to make a difference in a person's life is exciting to me,” said Newkirk.

Students completed clinical rotations first in a simulation lab, then in nursing homes, hospices, hospitals, mental institutions and schools.  

“I chose nursing because when I was 17 years old my grandmother had a massive heart attack while she was sitting next to me. I didn't know how or when to perform CPR – maybe that would have helped my grandmother in that circumstance. Since that day, I just wanted to be prepared for any type of emergency,” said Rivera.

“On our first semester we are given one patient to take care of (under the supervision of our instructors and personnel) and by the end of our last semester we are expected to care for three patients. I loved how our professors were always there to help us out and because of their knowledge and background I was able to succeed in the VN program and pass my state examination.”

Begun in 2005, the COM Licensed Vocational Nursing Program Begun VN Program is approved by the Texas Board of Nursing. After completing the one-year program, graduates are eligible to take the national licensure examination for vocational nurses. Learn more at www.com.edu/nursing.