Nurses get pins at LaGuardia CC

Eleven years ago, Alexandra Rodriguez was pursuing a pre-med degree at Mercy College, when her father died and her attention turned from studying to raising her two younger brothers and a friend whose parents had abandoned him.

For many years, Rodriguez put off her own ambitions and worked three jobs to support her brothers and family friend until they were grown up.

Now, Rodriguez is back on track, and she just received a certificate from a practical nursing program at LaGuardia Community College

“I hope this is the first step to many steps,” Rodriguez said. “My plan is to work one year and then get a degree in nursing and a master’s degree in public health.”

Rodriguez was one of 54 practical nurses, many of whom are older adults interested in starting a second career, who recently received pins and caps for graduating from a practical nursing certificate program at LaGuardia Community College.

“As practical nurses you will take the valuable skills and knowledge you received to provide valuable health care to community residents,” said Dr. Peter Katopes, vice president for Academic Affairs at LaGuardia Community College.

The LaGuardia program, which is 12 months and 48 credits, provides students with pre-clinical core educational courses as well as clinical hands-on-training assignments in the areas of mental health, medical-surgical nursing, maternal health and pediatric nursing at local health care facilities.

“The program was an influential and a cherished experience,” said Julian Piazzola the class president. “It transformed all of us from students to professional health care providers.”

Once the students pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nursing (NCLEX-PN), the new practical nurses would perform similar duties to those of registered nurses.

“The LPN [Licensed Practical Nurse] certification changes their lives significantly,” said Professor Kathleen Karsten. “That is especially true in the case of those who are presently working in hospitals in custodial-care positions. This certificate elevates them to a professional level.”

Since the program began in 2002, more than 300 students have gone through the program and nearly 30 percent of those have entered LaGuardia’s degree program in nursing.