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LPN careers launched: Drake State, Huntsville Hospital celebrate graduation

HUNTSVILLE — For the 21st consecutive year, nurses are ranked No. 1 in Gallup’s annual Most Honest and Ethical Professions poll.

Huntsville Hospital gained 19 new “Big Hearts” when the first cohort of the groundbreaking LPN Launch program graduated in a formal ceremony Tuesday in the Stone Event Center at Campus 805.

LPN Launch is a joint initiative between Drake State Community and Technical College and Huntsville Hospital to help address critical nursing shortages. The program offers nursing students the chance to become Licensed Practical Nurses and to embark on an immediate career at Huntsville Hospital.

Peggy Benson, executive officer of the Alabama Board of Nursing, was the keynote speaker. She shared four “points of wisdom” from her 40-year career as a nurse she said will help the graduates move forward in a successful nursing career.

“Number one, leadership is a choice,” she said. “We choose to grow and learn and not stay stagnant. You do that through lifelong learning.

“Two, be kind, fair and unafraid to speak up,” she said. “Be the voice of your patient, be the voice of reason.

“Number three, stay happy, There will be struggles ahead and days when you wonder why you chased this career. Always remember why you wanted to become a nurse.

And number 4, “If you are a person who can accept constructive criticism and not participate in any negativity, then you will be surprised how many patients you can encourage.”

The nursing graduates who earned their white coats are: Shanika Asberry, Zana Burke, Lida Burwell, Trinity Carlisle, Kristoffer Covington, Kieara Crutcher, Sarah Duffey, Keyona Fennell, Aretha Hammonds, Daidra Hazley, Angela Houston, Crystal King, Kerreca Myhand, Elizabeth Ramirez, Tasha Robinson, Sarina Salandy, Alicia Taylor and Kamilah Winfrey-Webb.

This occasion was marked by a special pinning, candle lighting, and White Coat Ceremony. The solemn but encouraging ceremony symbolizes the transition of the graduates from their academic journey to the practical realm of healthcare.

“Make no mistake about it,” Gov. Kay Ivey said in a video message. “The work you have done … will change lives forever. Your hard work does not go without recognition. I appreciate you and wish you all the best in your careers.”

Drake State President Dr. Patricia Sims expressed how proud the school is to be collaborating in the program.

“It has proven to be a transformative model of educational excellence and workforce development,” she said. “This partnership represents a powerful alliance between academia and healthcare, addressing our state’s critical need for qualified nursing professionals.

“LPN Launch removes financial barriers and empowers these healthcare professionals to embark on a rewarding career without delay.”

Spanning over three semesters, the program is taught at Huntsville Hospital’s Cochran Training Center.

In addition to receiving a nursing education, students were granted free tuition, books, and fees, ensuring that financial constraints did not hinder their pursuit of excellence.

“As our inaugural graduates prepare to enter the workforce at Huntsville Hospital, we are confident that this program will serve as a shining example for other institutions across the state, demonstrating the impact that collaborative initiatives can have on healthcare education and, ultimately, on the well-being of our communities,” said Sims.

“We are immensely proud of our first cohort of LPN Launch graduates,” said Director of Innovation and Program Success and Health Sciences Division Chair Dr. Alice Raymond. “Their dedication and hard work throughout this program have been truly inspiring. We are confident that these highly skilled LPNs will excel in their careers and continue to provide exceptional care to our community in the Huntsville Hospital service area.”

The LPN Launch program exemplifies the power of collaboration between academic institutions and healthcare organizations in addressing the growing demand for qualified healthcare professionals. By equipping students with the necessary knowledge, skills, and experience, Drake State and Huntsville Hospital are shaping the future of nursing and investing in the well-being of the local community.

“We are thrilled at the graduation of the first nurses from the LPN Launch program,” said Tracy Doughty, president and COO of Huntsville Hospital. “It is truly a win-win-win for the students, Drake State, and for Huntsville Hospital. When we announced this new program with Drake in March of last year, we knew that this effort could provide a pipeline of nurses for many years to come,

“With this graduation, the pipeline is now open; and our community and our patients will be the ultimate beneficiaries.”

Watch the graduation procession:

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