Nursing program going strong at Mesa State’s Montrose campus

MONTROSE — Doris Githere, a native of Kenya, moved to Montrose from Denver just to get into the nursing program at the Montrose campus of Mesa State College.

Githere, 41, lived in Denver for four years after moving to the United States and became certified as a licensed practical nurse, or LPN. But she wants to become a registered nurse.

If she’s accepted into the two-year-old nursing program at Mesa State-Montrose, she’ll become an RN in just one year.

“I moved here because of the program,” Githere said. “I got a job offer from Sunrise Creek Assisted Living, and I said I would take it only on the condition that I could continue my education.”

Githere was among about a dozen LPNs who registered for the registered nursing course last week, and classes begin in January.

She said competition is stiff for the 15 slots available for the course, and she hopes she makes the cut.

“I want to be an oncology nurse, and I was very surprised there was an RN program in Montrose,” she said. “I thought the only one in this area was in Grand Junction.”

Applications for the two-year RN program in Montrose are open until Oct. 1. For more information, call 249-7009.

Since the program began in 2006, close to 30 people have graduated from the program, with most working on the Western Slope, helping fill a critical nursing shortage in rural areas, said Joey Montoya, Mesa State-Montrose spokeswoman.

“I’m proud to say that 28 of our graduates passed the state boards, and 26 of the 28 are working as nurses in western Colorado, primarily in Delta and Montrose counties,” she said.

Those graduates have helped relieve the nursing shortage in this area, said Veronica Franco, chief clinical officer at Delta Memorial Hospital in Delta.

“We hire as many as possible, and we welcome new grads,” she said.

People can become registered nurses by completing a two-year associates’ degree or getting a four-year bachelor’s degree, Montoya said, but licensed practical nurses can complete the two-year degree in just one year at the Montrose campus.

Stephanie Meredith, 28, of Montrose is on that fast track. She recently completed her LPN training at Delta-Montrose Technical College in Delta.

“I decided to go straight into the RN program,” she said, “and then I hope to get a job in Montrose.”

Many students start with LPN training at the technical college, Montoya said, and then come to Mesa State-Montrose for more advanced training. Some of the registered nursing classes are offered online, she said.

“There are quite a few ways to become an RN, but this is probably the quickest path,” she said.

When students complete the two-year associate degree to become a registered nurse, their income potential increases considerably, allowing them to better support themselves if they want to pursue a four-year degree, Montoya said.

Earning a better wage is one of the main reasons Meredith wants to become a registered nurse, she said.

“The pay difference between an LPN and RN is pretty big,” she said. “It’s hard to get hired as an LPN.”


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