This content was published: November 23, 2020. Phone numbers, email addresses, and other information may have changed.
Nursing’s selfless work and dedication to others is alive and well at PCC
Photos and Story by Sarah Rose Evans
On the sleeves of Portland Community College Nursing Program’s uniforms is its trademark badge. The badge depicts the lamp of Florence Nightingale – a symbol for nursing’s selfless work and dedication to others (Nightingale would visit her patients at all hours carrying an oil lamp).
As the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the symbol has become even more important as nursing students like Chris Immonen and Alena Hasson were left wondering if they could ever graduate and help patients recover.
Last spring, the two were in their final term and worried about graduation being postponed. But thanks to the hard and grueling work put in by PCC’s faculty and staff, thousands of classes were shifted online to allow as many students as possible to continue their education and complete their degrees. The college’s goal of balancing the safety and health of its students with meeting their educational needs wasn’t easy, but the Nursing Program was able to shift to a remote format to enable students to finish their degrees.
To sign-up for one-on-one appointments, learn what steps to take, access information sessions and watch video tutorials, visit PCC’s Virtual Admission’s page. Students will get guidance, support, class registration and pathways to degree completion. In addition, current students can use the Virtual Help tab once they’ve logged in to access further support.
Graduating was important; many students had been working towards their degree for years. Many were also facing financial hardship. It was critical for students like Immonen and Hasson to be able to finish and join the workforce.
“I worked part-time during nursing school, but due to COVID, like a lot of us, I got laid off,” Hasson explained.
Prior to nursing school, Immonen struggled to land a job in numerous competitive fields. The PCC Nursing Program had appealed to him not only as a way to help others, but because of the job opportunities, too. With his spouse’s support, he was able to pursue his RN degree.
“My wife is a hair stylist and she pushed really hard, doubling up on clients, so I could concentrate on nursing school,” Immonen said. “I needed to finish. I was ready to begin my career.”
Graduating last June wasn’t the end of their journey, though. For graduates to be able to join the workforce, they must pass the NCLEX-RN exam, a rigorous examination of medical, surgical, pediatric, psychiatric and obstetric knowledge.
“We studied our tails off to nail these exams,” Immonen recalled. “PCC is up there with the best of the best as far as preparing us for it. Pushing us pretty hard was the best thing they could have done for us.”
After passing the NCLEX, Hasson and Immonen pivoted and began looking for work. In the upheaval around the pandemic, it actually became more difficult to find a nursing position in a hospital. Residency programs were being paused as hospitals sought more experienced candidates.
However, Immonen’s number came up. He landed a position with PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver, Wash.
“It’s in the emergency department,” he said. “I couldn’t be happier. I feel like I hit the lottery, especially because when COVID-19 hit, many local residency programs were being canceled. I literally did a backflip that I got that job.”
Having skilled up, Hasson was able to transition into a new role with her former employer.
“I was a medical assistant at the Portland Clinic for a little over seven years, but now that I have my RN, I was able to secure a position in urgent care,” Hasson explained. “We see a lot of suspected COVID. We’re on the front lines, all the way from putting patients into isolation rooms to notifying the Oregon Health Authority if their tests are positive.”
For others interested in a nursing career, Immonen and Hasson have some advice on what to look for in a nursing program.
“It is so important to have instructors that help push you along, genuinely care and want to see you succeed,” Immonen said. “I found that to be invaluable.”
Hasson added, “PCC has changed my life. I was able to learn and grow and get my career started. I met some amazing people along the way and learned a lot. It’s changed my life for the better in every way.”