NEW PORT RICHEY
After 23 years of work in the health care industry, Charles Rummens is back in school and well on his way to obtaining a bachelor of science degree in nursing at Pasco-Hernando State College.
"I've done everything from charge nurse to unit manager," said Rummens, who is currently employed as a staff floor nurse at Consulate Health Care of Bayonet Point.
Balancing work and school can feel like a tall order for Rummens, 48, who lives in Port Richey with his wife and three college-age daughters.
"Sometimes I'll be doing my school work in Starbucks with my daughter while she is doing her work," he said. "I feel the same things she does — the crunch. You have to pass. You want to do the best."
The path Rummens has laid out is well worth it, he figures — especially if it helps him land a job at the VA medical center in Tampa. Caring for veterans is something he's wanted to do since serving a stint as an Army medic just before the first Gulf War.
Rummens is one of 122 students currently enrolled in the bachelor's program in nursing at PHSC. The program graduated its first group of 20 students in May, a few weeks before more recently receiving its five-year accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
Accreditation is a big milestone, one that can boost members of the local community working in the nursing field, said Daryle Wane, a board-certified family nurse practitioner who serves as the BSN program coordinator and is a professor of nursing at PHSC.
"The nursing profession options are wide open and varied for those who go into it," said Wane, who spearheaded the accreditation effort. "I've been a nurse for 36 years. It's one of those professions where you have such a diversity of interests that you can reinvent yourself. People who are at the end of their (nursing) career can get an advanced degree and become a family nurse practitioner, OB-GYN nurse practitioner, a midwife. Whatever you can imagine yourself doing, you can work toward that through education."
A growing national movement for all nurses to have bachelor's degrees helped spur the BSN program at PHSC, Wane said.
"We already had an associate degree program in nursing, a bridge program for (licensed practical nurse) paramedics and an LPN program," she said. "The question is: Where do you go from there? There really was no place for our students here. They had to go to USF or St. Petersburg College."
Potential students must first submit an application and write an essay on the philosophy of nursing education and clinical practice.
"You have to meet a criteria," Wane said. "Basically, it's personal statements that we are looking for. Where they are now. Where they think they might be going."
Follow what’s happening in Tampa Bay schools
Subscribe to our free Gradebook newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
And while there is some collaboration among students on selected projects, most of the work is done online.
That's a big draw for many.
"We are dealing with a population who for the most part are working, have a family and lifetime commitments, so it's difficult," Wane said. "A lot of students welcome the online component to do it."
That was part of the appeal for Samantha Banks, 37, a married mother of two who works as an RN at Florida Hospital in Wesley Chapel.
"You are perpetually educating yourself when you are a nurse, and I always knew I would go back to school," Banks said.
"What's good about doing it online is that you can be flexible on how you can achieve your goal. I don't know that a classroom setting would work for me," she said, describing a typical evening spent studying at home. "My son, Tommy, counts the penguins on the iceberg for his homework, and I'm doing my paper, and my daughter, Alexis, is running around. It's good for them to see that if you work hard you can achieve anything."
While convenience is a big perk for Rummens, so is the cost of tuition.
"Doing this online gives everybody the ability to pursue education without having to be in a classroom for eight hours a day," he said. "I was nervous in the beginning because I hadn't been to school in a long time. But (the instructors) have been very helpful. They tell you exactly what's expected of you. If you have any questions, they usually get back to you in a matter of hours. They do everything up to giving you their home phone number.
"The big thing for me is the affordability," Rummens said. "I looked into USF and other online nursing programs, but a lot of them are much more expensive. PHSC offers local world-class nursing instruction for affordable prices. It's a secret diamond in the rough that we can use in our community."
Contact Michele Miller at email@example.com. Follow @MicheleMiller52.