(SWEETWATER, Texas) – Stacie Peterson will always remember the time she spent in the hospital with her first child.
The Texas State Technical College Vocational Nursing student was 21 when her son was born. He spent 34 days in the newborn intensive care unit (NICU) before being allowed to leave.
“All of the nurses in the NICU touched my heart during that time,” she said. “I decided then that I wanted to become a nurse.”
Peterson, of Big Spring, has remained in contact with the nurses who helped her son 12 years ago. They offer her encouragement in life, as well as sending well wishes to her son.
“They send him a birthday card every year, which means a lot to myself and him,” she said.
After starting a nursing program at a different school, Peterson said many obstacles arose in her life.
“I felt like nursing was just not for me,” she said.
TSTC Vocational Nursing instructor Marchelle Taylor reached out to Peterson to help her reconsider her career options.
“Mrs. Taylor told me that maybe I was in the wrong program,” Peterson said. “She told me to look at what TSTC has to offer. It has been amazing since then.”
Peterson is on schedule to graduate this fall and has been researching different career opportunities. She said having health care representatives visit campus to explain what they offer has helped her.
“It has been great to hear what options we have as a vocational nurse,” she said. “Some hospitals and clinics will allow us to continue our studies to become a registered nurse, which is something I might consider. I would not have known that would be an option if they had not visited our class.”
Clinical sessions have been one of the most enjoyable times for Peterson.
“We have so many different opportunities during clinicals,” she said. “I have been able to take care of newborn babies right after birth.”
Peterson has also provided comfort to babies during NICU clinicals.
“We get to see the babies and take care of them,” she said. “I know it was the right choice for me when I am able to help someone and their child.”
Instructor Joan Coldiron said Peterson has the passion to be a strong nurse.
“She is very driven in everything she does,” she said. “She works hard to make sure she knows what needs to be done because she cares about her career.”
Peterson said the instructors are what make the program successful.
“The instructors care so much for us. They want us to be the best we can, and it shows,” she said. “I hope more people take advantage of this program.”
TSTC’s Vocational Nursing certificate program is also available at the Harlingen campus, and applications are being accepted through November 1 for the spring semester For complete program requirements, visit www.tstc.edu/program-requirements/nursing/.
Upon completion of the program and passing the National Council Licensure Examination, graduates are classified as licensed vocational nurses (LVNs).
According to onetonline.org, LVN jobs were forecast to increase 17% in Texas between 2020 and 2030. The median salary for LVNs in Texas is $48,520, the website showed.
TSTC also offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Nursing at the Harlingen and Sweetwater campuses.
For more information about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.