Twenty-years-ago, Rob Werner set three lofty goals for himself. The first was to become a paramedic in his early 20’s. The second was to become a registered nurse by 30, followed by a doctor at 40. By 23, Werner had marked ‘accomplished’ next to his goal of becoming a paramedic. But then other priorities appeared in his life when he married and had two children.
Though two decades have passed, Werner said he never did forget about those last two goals. “Becoming an RN will open a lot of doors for me,” he said. “As long as I have been in this career, I have seen other opportunities in the medical field. Those doors are closed to paramedics.” A new Fast-Track program at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College will help Werner, a resident of Miami, check off those last two accomplishments. And he will be able to reach that next level in his career at a pace quicker than the conventional educational curriculum would normally allow. In addition to the Fast Track LPN-to-RN program that has been in place for four years, this month NEO will kick-off a Fast Track Paramedic-to-RN option. Once the prerequisites for the paramedic program are completed, the Fast Track coursework will require only one calendar year for its students who are already licensed paramedics to become registered nurses, said Vickie Fields, coordinator for the Fast Track programs.
Typically such course work would require three years to complete, Fields said. NEO has tailored the course work to best fit the needs of non-traditional students. Much of the class work will be done on-line, Fields said, which will allow working individuals such as Werner to continue their job while pursuing their education.
The Paramedic-to-RN program is fast-paced with a curriculum that includes on-line assignments, theory, on-site clinicals and skills. Clinicals will be held at Integris Grove General Hospital once a week during the first semester and at other area medical facilities the second semester, said Fields.
To apply for both the LPN and Paramedic Fast Track programs, students must have an active license that is in good standing. In addition, they must have the pre-requisites for the program completed.
The Fast Track program is well-suited for paramedics because of the hundreds of hours of clinicals and the extensive amount of classroom work they have already been through. Fields said paramedics who are successful are self-starters and very determined.
“That is what I would describe as the paramedic personality,” Fields said. “They are in emergency situations where they have to do assessments and treatments on their own, with no doctor looking over their shoulder.” NEO is able to offer the Fast Track program in a single year because licensed paramedics will be given advanced credit for the education they have already completed. The college’s Fast Track programs have been approved by National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission, Inc. Werner said that after having worked as a paramedic, those first semesters of classes he would have taken with the traditional route would have seemed redundant. “The college has condensed everything into what I need to know and how I need to know it in a quick-paced manner,” he said. The NEO Nursing Department has been inundated with inquires about a paramedic option similar to that of the LPN to RN program since its inception four years ago. Fields said many have inquired about admittance, because the opportunities for advancement for paramedics are not great.
“Those individuals can’t work on the hospital floor,” she said. “Once they finish in the ambulance, they almost have to start another career. Because of the training they already have, becoming a nurse seems to be the perfect fit.” Three students have been accepted into the 2008 program, said Fields. If the paramedic program mirrors the LPN bridge program, interest in it will spread quickly. Fields said six students enrolled in the LPN Fast Track in 2004. The program has nearly tripled this year.