The Rolla Technical Center is celebrating the 50th anniversary of their nursing program, having graduated over 1,200 students over half a century. This year they’ve held their annual family night and an alumni gathering in March to commemorate half a century of success.

The program is currently run by Program Director Vikki Parsell, and Faculty Instructors Michelle Chick and Chris Floyd. Both Parsell and Chick are past graduates of the RTC nursing program who returned to pass on their passion to new generations. Parsell and Chick sat down to discuss this year’s anniversary and how much the program has grown.

“It’s grown not just in sheer numbers,” said Parsell, although while the first class had only nine students, the program now welcomes 32 students each year. One of the biggest advances the program has made these 50 years, according to Parsell and Chick, is the incorporation of technology in the classroom.

“There weren’t as many technological advances as far as teaching students in the 60’s,” said Chick. “Even when I graduated in ’94, there were films shown on projectors. Now we have YouTube videos, we utilize online instructional tools for students. The student I think, has better opportunities to find and seek information.”

In addition to the way technology has increased in the classroom, Parsell said the very field of nursing has evolved over the years, and this has affected the way they approach the classroom.

“Back in 1978 when I went through the program, the nurses role I think was kind of limited,” she said. “We basically did what the doctor said. They wrote the order and we followed through. And now nursing has grown to be so much more. Now as a nurse you actually assess your patient and plan for what their needs could be.”

Parsell explained that today, nursing is more of a holistic approach than it used to be.

“You take care of the whole patient, not just physically. Wee take care of their emotional and spiritual needs. We also don’t do just what the doctor orders anymore. We’ve become an advocate for the patient, a voice when they can’t speak for themselves.”

Chick added that “nursing is also more respected as it’s own profession now. it’s respected as it’s practice rather than the arm of the physician. In the old days we were just a helper, now we actually make decisions that impact the patients’ care and how they get treated.”

At home in RTC’s program, Parsell, Chick and Floyd help their students reach these standards that the nursing community has grown to achieve.

“My opinion as the only director in 50 years, is part of what makes us special is our faculty. Our faculty relates to the students with a positive attitude. We’re mentors and facilitators of learning, we’re not just standing there and lecturing them.”

When she was in the program, Parsell said it consisted of sitting in class for eight hours while an instructor lectured. Now they have various activities and skills labs where they can practice.

“We have a different kid of spirit about us and how we approach the students,” said Parsell. “I think we’ve earned a great respect form the community and past grads.”

As the program reaches it’s 50th year and continues onwards, Parsell said they want to continue to advocate for the Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) position.

“I think there are times when the Nursing profession thinks of the RN as the only professional nurse, but that’s not true,” said Parsell. “The LPN has an extremely important role in healthcare. Our goal is to keep that focus on the LPN and how important they are to the nursing profession. We want to maintain and exceed whatever level we’re at to produce the best nurses for all of healthcare and make sure the LPN doesn’t go away.”

Parsell and the rest of the staff will be holding this year’s pinning ceremony for the 50th class to graduate from the program. The community is invited to attend, and Parsell expresses her thanks to the area for the support they have received throughout the years.

“It’s overwhelming, the amount of people that truly love this program,” she said. “We truly do appreciate the community for their support. 50 years is a long time to be around.”