Nursing graduates of BC3@Brockway

Graduates of BC3 @ Brockway’s Class of 2023 in Nursing, R.N., are shown May 12 at BC3 @ Brockway, where they attended a ceremony in which they received pins for having completed the career program. From left, Elizabeth Morris, Rebecca Fishel, Chloe Hartzfeld, Tracey McAllister, Alicia Henry, Jordan Anthony, Kayla Jamison, Sara Mae Eble, Twonda Jamison, Amanda Christensen, Jessica Kerr, Ashley Lingenfelter and Heather Bell.

BROCKWAY — Graduates of a two-year career program in registered nursing at BC3 @ Brockway represent in 2023 four Pennsylvania counties, report job offers in the high-priority occupation with signing bonuses reaching $15,000 and are on average the most senior of those to have earned the associate in applied science degree from Butler County Community College’s additional location.

Nine of the 13 graduates in 2023 are at least 29. The Class of 2023 average 35.8 years of age.

“Our class was a variety of ages,” said graduate Elizabeth Morris, a 44-year-old mother of two from Penfield. “It’s never too late. No matter what. If you want it badly enough, you can do it.”

Graduate Alicia Henry, a 35-year-old mother of four from DuBois, said, “I don’t think you are ever too old to continue your education.”

“This is true,” said graduate Tracey McAllister, a mother of five from DuBois, “because I just turned 54.”

BC3 @ Brockway’s Class of 2020 in Nursing, R.N., averaged 28.8 years of age. In 2021, it was 33.7 and in 2022, it was 34.7.

BC3 @ Brockway has graduated 48 students in its 70-credit Nursing, R.N., program since 2020.

“Community colleges are certainly known for educating nontraditional, or even maybe more specifically, adult students,” said Dr. Nick Neupauer, president of BC3, which established its additional location in Brockway 10 years ago to serve students in Pennsylvania counties under-represented by higher education. “Certainly things are running on all cylinders at BC3 @ Brockway.”

“I am definitely a nontraditional student, but at this school I feel like I am more of the norm,” said Jordan Anthony, 29, of Brockport, another graduate.

“For me, BC3 was so awesome. … I think I had a lack of confidence in going back and wondering, ‘How am I going to make this work?’ It is so important. If I would not have had BC3 as an option, I don’t know if I would have gone back to school at this age,” said Anthony.

BC3 created the Nursing, R.N., program at BC3 @ Brockway five years ago to address a regional shortage of nurses in the North Central Workforce Development Area and to save students an otherwise 160-mile roundtrip from Brockway to attend the program on BC3’s main campus in Butler Township.

“What I am seeing at BC3 @ Brockway is an opportunity for students who maybe 10, 15 years ago didn’t have the opportunity to go to college,” said Dr. Patty Annear, dean of BC3’s Shaffer School of Nursing and Allied Health. “There wasn’t a BC3 there at the time. The rationale for opening BC3 @ Brockway was to give those students the opportunity. It’s neat to see that what the intent was is happening.”

Community colleges grant more than 75 percent of associate degrees in nursing in Pennsylvania, according to the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges.

BC3 @ Brockway on May 12 awarded pins to its Class of 2023 in Nursing, R.N. Students in BC3 @ Brockway’s career programs such as Nursing, R.N., can develop the skills needed to enter the workforce immediately upon graduation.

The college’s Class of 2023 in Nursing, R.N., reported accepting positions with hourly pay between $29.95 and $32.

Job opportunities are “literally endless,” said Anthony. “I can go anywhere.”

Henry, Morris and McAllister are among BC3 @ Brockway Nursing, R.N., students who graduated with honors.

BC3 @ Brockway’s graduates represent counties in the North Central Workforce Development Area. Registered nurse is a high-priority occupation in each of those counties.

Annual demand for registered nurses through 2028 in the North Central Workforce Development Area is expected to be 121, according to the state Department of Labor & Industry’s Center for Workforce Information & Analysis.

“It’s probably the best market that I have ever seen in all of my years of teaching and working in nursing,” Annear said.

BC3 @ Brockway’s Class of 2023 in Nursing, R.N., includes seven students who participated in a tuition assistance program sponsored by Penn Highlands Healthcare, DuBois, in BC3 @ Brockway’s service area. Penn Highlands Healthcare last fall began to sponsor tuition for select BC3 @ Brockway students who sign an employment agreement.

Graduates completed 650 hours of clinical experiences in the past year at PHH in DuBois, said Brittany Guadagno, a faculty member in BC3 @ Brockway’s Shaffer School of Nursing and Allied Health. Clinical experiences begin in a student’s first semester.

Graduates also completed program-ending preceptorships – a readiness assessment in which they are paired with and mentored by a nurse – at Penn Highlands Healthcare facilities; Allegheny General Hospital, Pittsburgh; Punxsutawney Area Hospital and Forbes Hospital, Monroeville, Guadagno said.

BC3 @ Brockway graduates reported accepting positions to work in cardiovascular intensive care units or emergency departments. On medical-surgery floors. In long-term care and in behavioral health.

“My classmates had jobs in October,” said Anthony, who is pursuing a position in an emergency department. “They had jobs before they were even done with school.”

To attain licensure, graduates of BC3’s Nursing, R.N., program take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses. An average of 86 percent of BC3’s first-time NCLEX-RN test-takers in the past three years have been successful, Annear said.

General applications for fall 2024 consideration in BC3 @ Brockway’s Nursing, R.N., program will be accepted beginning Aug. 1.

Graduates from Clearfield County are DuBois residents Rebecca Fishel, Alicia Henry, Ashley Lingenfelter and Tracey McAllister; and Elizabeth Morris, Penfield.

Graduate Jordan Anthony lives in Brockport.

Graduates from Jefferson County are Kayla Jamison, Brockway; Amanda Christensen, Hazen; Sara-Mae Eble, Brookville; Jessica Kerr, Punxsutawney; Twonda Jamison, Reynoldsville; and Chloe Hartzfeld, Sykesville.