Nursing students on the Fauquier Campus get to learn in a brand-new facility with state-of-the-art technology and equipment. And, they are being taught by inspiring faculty with a wealth of experience – including professors Mary Catts and John Hammer.
Professor Hammer has been in the medical field for 25 years. He worked as an ER nurse before becoming an instructor, and prior to that, he was a flight medic in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, and is a retired firefighter-paramedic.
“Not only do I bring in that hospital aspect, I also bring in that pre-hospital aspect,” said Professor Hammer.
Professor Catts has more than 30 years of nursing experience, including as a school nurse. Prior to coming to Laurel Ridge, she was a clinical instructor at Germanna Community College.
“Our technology sets our nursing program apart,” said Professor Catts.
Professor Hammer, who is in charge of the simulation lab, agrees. Students get to train on a variety of high-tech manikins, including the Apollo simulator.
“We can listen to Apollo’s lung sounds, heart sounds, bowel sounds,” he said. “We can simulate different arrythmias with the patient. We can start I.V.s. We can administer medications and fluids. We can make it bleed if necessary. We can interchange parts for male and female for catheter insertion.
“We can do a lot of things with our manikin here that our students will be doing in real life. This gives them great practice.”
Professor Catts added, “We also have the technology with pediatric patients. We’re able to do these simulation experiences across the lifespan – baby, child and adult.’
The opening of the Eleanor C. and William A. Hazel Hall, a 40,000-square-foot academic building designed for the college’s health care, science and engineering programs in time for the fall 2022 semester, has been transformational. The nursing lab replicates a hospital floor with multiple patient beds and bedside equipment.
“We have upgraded what we do with simulations,” said Professor Catts. “We ran a code blue simulation. We have been simulating more bedside care.”
“We’re putting classroom experience into actual practical experience,” added Professor Hammer. “If they make a mistake here that’s fine because we can talk about it and debrief with them.”
The labs have observation rooms where faculty and fellow students can watch as other students run a simulation and then later provide feedback.
“When we film it, they can review it themselves as well,” said Professor Catts.
Part of the training involves the students working on the patients without an instructor beside them.
“They have to go in and talk to the patients,” said Professor Hammer. “It’s allowing them to actually go into the patient’s room and take care of the patient. If they have orders to start an I.V., they get to do that. It gives students that ability to practice these skills with us observing, but not actually in the room with them.”
Professor Catts added that the nursing faculty is another reason the college’s nursing program is so highly-regarded and competitive.
“If you added up all their years of experience as nurses, it would be in the hundreds,” she said.
Laurel Ridge Community College plays an important role in the region’s health care workforce pipeline and the job outlook is very bright for new graduates.
“We’re desperate as a state for nurses, and an associate degree gets you your license, and you will find a job,” said Professor Catts. “You can sometimes even go right into a nursing specialty. Hospitals need nurses. Hospitals are soliciting our students an entire year before they graduate. In January, several months before our students graduate, they’re offering them contracts. Many of our students in the fourth semester are already being hired.”
The median salary for nurses in this area is around $75,000. Qualified Virginia residents enrolled in the nursing program can receive G3 funding, which covers the cost of tuition after all financial aid has been applied. Learn more about the Registered Nursing program at laurelridge.edu/nursing.
Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.