Four Petersburg residents earn nursing degrees through local hospital program
Four Petersburg residents graduated from a two-year nursing program run by the Petersburg Medical Center in conjunction with the University of Alaska Anchorage. A pinning ceremony took place on May 1 in the church hall of the Lutheran Church and was broadcast online. KFSK’s Angela Denning reports:
Masked family, friends and colleagues gathered in the Holy Cross house while others watched the ceremony live online.
The graduates took to the stage – Kelly Bieber, Emma Gates, Kim Robson and Lauren Thain. They listened to one of their instructors, Jennifer Bryner, talk about it.
“They have worked extremely hard over the past two years and have shown they have the courage, determination and character to be an exceptional nurse,” said Bryner.
Bryner is the nurse manager of Petersburg Medical Center. She spoke about graduates in school during the pandemic. She says that although this has been a difficult year, it has highlighted the importance of the profession to the world.
“Nurses provide care in hospitals, clinics, on the street, at home and this year in gyms,” Bryner said. “The Covid-19 pandemic has illuminated the character of nurses. You saw the pictures. Nurses bravely prepare to enter a COVID ward, holding hands with those who are sick and dying, taking the time to shed a tear at the end of a long shift, then starting over the next day.
One of the graduates – Kelly Bieber – grew up in Petersburg and has been a certified nursing assistant at PMC for seven years. The prospect of becoming a nurse became personal when her mother was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer.
“Watching her in treatment and observing the nurses caring for her, I really knew at that point that nursing was what I was supposed to do,” Bieber said. “I felt very called to the profession and I felt helping people and making a difference was my goal.”
The local nursing program is a two-year associate’s degree. Several prerequisite classes are required such as chemistry and microbiology before starting the program. Then it’s two years of rigorous hands-on training through the local hospital as well as a week at Mount Sitka. Edgecumbe. They also have lab classes and talks on Zoom.
Bieber says the hardest part of the program was its fast pace. They took an exam almost every week and had to keep what they had learned. But she says she felt really supported.
“It was so nice to have such a small group of four students,” Bieber said. “We all got really close and kind of became each other’s study group and support system. And being so little we had a lot of one-on-one encounters with our instructors and they were super amazing and supportive and with that the community has been so supportive of us too.
Similar sentiments were shared at the ceremony, when graduate Emma Gates spoke on behalf of the cohort. She said they will never forget the past two years.
“The four of us worked really hard to get to this point and I think it’s safe to say we all feel we’ve grown tremendously during this program not only as nurses, but as individuals, ”Gates said.
Instructor and nurse from Petersburg, Nichole Mattingly, guided all nurses in the room through the Code of Ethics commitment for nurses.
Graduate Kimberly Robson received the UAA Director’s Award for being the student with the highest academic record in the cohort.
All graduates will still need to pass a final board of nursing exam in order to work as a nurse.
Bieber says after that she wants to continue working at the local hospital.