Ellie Whalen says she has always known she wanted a career in health care. Now a student in the Lincoln Land Community College Associate Degree Nursing program, she has worked directly with COVID-19 patients through her patient care technician position at Memorial Medical Center.
“The longer the pandemic goes on, the more I want my degree,” says Whalen. “It hasn’t changed my mind about my career choice one bit. Healthcare workers are the true heroes during this pandemic. They are the ones I look up to and hope they know how much I appreciate them.”
While attending Waverly High School, Whalen job shadowed at Memorial as part of her anatomy and physiology class. “That’s when I became more intrigued and curious about nursing. So, I decided to go to LLCC to start the process. At that time in my life, I was still unsure about what I wanted to do in health care.
“The moment I really knew I wanted to be a nurse is when I had nurses taking care of my family member. They were by our side 24/7, answered every question and showed they cared for not only their patient but his family too. After that experience, I knew nursing was going to be my career.”
LLCC and Memorial Health System announced last February a partnership to increase the number of nursing students accepted into LLCC’s nursing program. With $6.1 million in support from MHS, LLCC will admit 90 additional nursing students per year for a total of 215 nursing students annually. Construction continues to renovate Montgomery Hall on the LLCC campus to create an expanded, state-of-the-art nursing center to accommodate this growth.
“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, our communities have relied heavily on the skill and dedication of our nursing professionals,” said Marsha Prater, Ph.D., R.N., senior vice president and chief nursing officer at Memorial Health System. “Now, more than ever, Memorial recognizes how crucial it is to address the nursing shortage in our region. This partnership is helping to alleviate that shortage by enabling more individuals like Ellie to realize their goal of becoming a registered professional nurse and give back to the communities in which they live.”
Whalen is excited about the career opportunities available in nursing locally.
“Just in Springfield, we are fortunate to have two amazing hospitals with many different opportunities to start our nursing careers. Whether it be the ER, ICU, Intermediate Care, Labor and Delivery, Pediatrics, NICU, Psychiatric, or a general Medical-Surgical unit, new graduates have so many options. There are also options outside the hospital setting such as clinics, doctors’ offices, home health and more.”
She says LLCC’s nursing expansion could not have come at a better time.
“The expansion of LLCC’s nursing program will offer more nurses to help relieve the hospitals during this shortage. By adding more seats, students will not have to wait and reapply before being accepted into the program. The new facilities will bring an up-to-date approach and help guide students who are unsure of their choice to be a nurse.”