In May, the Sandhills Community College Nursing Department passed a milestone when the two-thousandth nurse was pinned. Even though 49 years separated the two cohorts of students, the groups weren’t as different as one might imagine.
1968 Graduate Ann Medlin
Ann Medlin was a member of the first graduating class of nurses, celebrating her pinning in 1968.
Ann was born and raised in the Sandhills. Her mother, Pinky Dowd, was a Registered Nurse at Moore Memorial Hospital and her father owned and operated Poverty Hill Nursery.
At the age of 16, she began volunteering at the local hospital. At this time, the girls were called pink checkers or candy-stripers and were under the direction of Registered Nurse Margaret Blake. “Volunteers received challenging preparation, and I had practically a complete Nurse Aid course by the time I graduated high school,” said Ann.
Even though her mother was a nurse, Ann decided that the career was not for her, and chose to attend Western Carolina University to become a teacher.
It wasn’t until Ann came home for the summer after her freshman year and started volunteering at the hospital again that she realized that Nursing might indeed have been her calling. “Everyone in the hospital was welcoming and continually invited me to help and observe different activities,” she said, “including the several times Dr. Greene invited me to observe an “interesting” autopsy in the morgue.”
“Others at the hospital who taught me or let me observe were Dr. Pishko, Dr. CR Monroe, and Dr. Hiatt. Another Registered Nurse, Louise Klabbatz, took me under her wing.”
While living at home, Ann met the man who would later become her husband. “I thought about attending the Presbyterian hospital program in Charlotte,” she said, “but it took three years, and you couldn’t be married.”
Lucky for Ann, a new community college was being built just down the street from her family home. “My father was a landscaper,” she said, “and he was thrilled that they were going to have a Landscape Gardening program. And, of course, mother was happy to learn they would have a nursing program. The whole area couldn’t have been more excited.” Ann’s parents later hosted a number of Sandhills students who needed a place to live while attending the college.
Ann was married during the Labor Day weekend and began her nursing studies at Sandhills two days later. She did bookkeeping at the local Sears store while attending Sandhills.
The first group of nursing students was very diverse with newly graduated high school students, women with a year or more of college, and even women with children who were holding down full-time jobs while attending Sandhills. They visited hospitals in Raleigh and Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg. There they were exposed to various training exercises since their program was brand new and they did not yet have all the facilities needed on campus.
Each nursing student took a full course load. Anita Smith, the program director, wanted to make sure that her students were “educated as a person and not just a nurse.” After the first day of a philosophy class, Ann told Ms. Smith she had no clue what was going on, and she said, “Yes, but next week you will.” Ann ended up graduating at the top of the philosophy class.
The nursing students were a very tight-knit class. They spent hours upon hours of time together both commending and critiquing one another. The program was grueling, but Ann is thankful for the support system she had while at Sandhills.
After one particular negative lab, their instructor gave some advice that would stick with Ann the rest of her life. She reminded them that each student had a different relationship with each doctor and patient so they should not judge others work too harshly until they had walked in their shoes.
After graduating in June of 1968, Ann started working the following month at the hospital. “Everyone was like a big family from the doctors and specialists to the orderlies and cooks,” she said, “and I loved it.”
Once her son Jeremy was four-years-old, Ann started working for the Home Health Agency of St. Joseph’s Hospital. It was a more structured work week, and now with her weekends free, she was able to spend more time with her family. A few years later, daughter Robin was born. “Nursing always gave me the opportunity to work full or part-time according to the needs of my family.”
Never the person to only do one thing, Ann has worked in a variety of healthcare settings. The final 20 years of her nursing career was at the Ambulatory Surgery Center. She has volunteered with Moore County Schools, The Spay and Neuter Clinic, The Sandhills Coalition for Human Care and Habitat for Humanity.
Despite her love of travel, Ann has never lived outside the Pinehurst area. Although she retired at the age of 60, she has yet to slow down. Ann and her husband, Robert, have built three homes together over the years and recently finished a remodel of their current home.
Ann marvels about how much the college has changed over the years. Today she continues her education at SCC, taking various classes through the Continuing Education division. She also enjoys taking her grandchildren to the Horticulture Gardens at the college.
The Two-Thousandth Nurse – Joy Tera
Joy Tera was part of the most recent Sandhills Community College graduating class, participating in the nurses pinning ceremony, just as Ann did, at the Village Chapel in Pinehurst.
Joy represents a good many of today’s students at the college, juggling classes and college responsibilities while managing a home and raising children.
Originally from Hampton, VA, Joy was a stay-at-home-mom for 14 years for her active duty military family. When her youngest child began school, so did Joy. “My sister, April, is a nurse and she encouraged me to look into nursing as a career,” she said.
“I remember how nervous I was going to campus to take my class placement tests,” she said. “I had so much riding on this.” But a year later, Joy had finished all the prerequisite classes she needed and was accepted into the program.
Her sister’s advice was wise. Joy was inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa honor society. She graduated Magna Cum Laude and at the pinning ceremony, was awarded The Southern Pines Women’s Health Award, which is given to the student who shows success and dedication to the health care of women.
“The program was very challenging, but it gave me the confidence that I was going to be able to have a better future for myself and my children. Sandhills was my lifeline.”
Joy was hired directly into Labor and Delivery at FirstHealth as a new graduate. “I was only the second new grad to be hired into this department.”
Joy gives kudos to her three children, Matt, Abby, and Jack. “My kids are the ones who supported me through college, and continue to support me, as I navigate the workforce after staying home with them for so long.”
Her experience of camaraderie with the other nursing students was very similar to that of Ann’s. “The program is very demanding, but every time one of us hit a bump in the road, the others were there to offer support and encourage us.”
The program at Sandhills now has equipment Ann’s class could have never imagined. There are several classrooms, practice labs, and simulation rooms set up like actual hospital rooms with lifelike, life-size manikins. The simulated patients can exhibit symptoms and speak to the caregivers. They can physically react to medications given, suffer seizures, blink their eyes, show changes in blood pressure, bleed, have a heart attack, and much more. One mannequin is a maternal and neonatal simulator which simulates the birthing experience of a full-term baby.
This state-of-the-art simulation laboratory provides near real-world experience and an opportunity to learn and practice in a realistic, risk-free environment. Student confidence is increased when interactive strategies and engaged learning experiences are implemented. When used in combination with traditional classroom instruction and a variety of clinical settings, studies have suggested that such experiences produce safer, more efficient, and confident nurses.
The SCC ADN Program
The Associate Degree Nursing (ADN) curriculum at Sandhills develops the knowledge, skills, and attitudes of students to provide safe, ethical, holistic and compassionate nursing care. Graduates of the program are eligible to apply to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). SCC ADN graduates have consistently exceeded the national pass rate for the NCLEX.
Every graduate of the college’s ADN program is prepared to advance to a baccalaureate degree in nursing via an articulation agreement with the University of North Carolina’s Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. The college also has an LPN to ADN pathway and is a partner in the Regionally Increasing Baccalaureate Nurses program between Sandhills Community College and UNC-Pembroke. This program utilizes a dual enrollment and four-year shared curriculum pathway for students to achieve a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing at the beginning of their nursing careers.
“The local community is very supportive of our ADN program,” said Department Chair Lynne Phifer. “Through the contributions of our devoted faculty so many charitable people, the legacy of our ADN program has grown. You will find our graduates working as staff nurses and nurse leaders at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital, in skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers, home health, hospice, and in medical offices throughout the Sandhills. But with the local and national demographics trending older, even more nurses are needed for the future.”
Spring semester begins at Sandhills Community College on Wednesday, January 10. Current curriculum students can register for classes using WebAdvisor through December 29. New students are encouraged to apply online at sandhills.edu and come to the college on January 3-4 to discuss an academic plan with an advisor and take class placement tests if necessary. New student orientation will be on Monday, January 8 and those completing orientation will then register for spring semester classes.