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July 27, 2012

Blinn’s vocational nursing program to host 50th pinning ceremony on Aug. 1

Program has graduated more than 800 health care professionals

Blinn College’s first vocational nursing pinning ceremony, shown here, was held in 1962. The program will hold its 50th such ceremony on Wednesday, August 1.

Over the past 49 years, Blinn College-Brenham’s vocational nursing program has produced 823 graduates. It will add 14 more graduates to that impressive total on Aug. 1, celebrating the program’s 50th pinning ceremony.

For those 14 students, the symbolic pinning ceremony will welcome these new graduates into the profession, marking the conclusion of a challenging year in which they successfully completed 19 courses in one of the toughest programs Blinn College offers. For the program as a whole, it will mark half a century of graduating highly-skilled professionals capable of working in a variety of medical settings.

“It’s a very rewarding feeling to know that students have been interested for 50 years and the program is still excellent,” said former Vocational Nursing Director Ina Eckert, who held that post for 26 years. “It’s exciting to know that the program is still thriving and continues to be an asset to the community and the state of Texas.”

Last year, all 15 of Blinn’s vocational nursing graduates passed the National Council Licensing Examination, earning it commendation from the Texas Board of Nursing. Nationally, 84 percent of students passed the test.

Prior to applying for a place in the program, students must attend a mandatory information session in which Program Director Michelle Marburger explains what students can expect from the 12-month program: The first semester will include 10 courses. Students must pass all their classes to advance to the next semester, and should they fail, they must re-apply for the program the following year. To pass, students must score at least a 75 percent, and the program also features a strict attendance policy.

If a student fails an exam, they must schedule an appointment with their instructor, and together they go over the exam to discover the source of the student’s confusion.
“It’s pretty fast-paced and intense. There’s a lot to learn in one year,” said Marburger, who graduated from the program herself in 1988. “We do challenge them and we do expect a lot out of them, but I think we have to. We tell them we’ll be their friend once they graduate, and we’ll work side by side with them, but while you’re in this program we are going to be strict.”

Marburger was thankful for Blinn’s strict policies in 2006 when she required emergency gall bladder surgery. Blinn College nursing graduates were at her side before, during and after the procedure.

“I think they were scared to take care of me,” she said with a laugh.

Marburger spent 10 years in nursing before Eckert asked her if she might be interested in a part-time position at Blinn as a clinical instructor. Marburger, who had kept in touch with her nursing mentor accepted the position, eventually taking a job as a full-time instructor. When Eckert retired in 2005, she had long since begun grooming Marburger to fill her shoes.

“She has a very special place in my heart,” Marburger said. “Whenever I think of the word ‘nurse,’ I think of her. She cares a lot about the program and how our graduates represent Blinn College and the nursing program.”

Marburger became just the fourth vocational nursing program director in Blinn-Brenham’s history, following in the footsteps of Ruth Tottenham and Ora Lee Edwards.

“The director preceding me, Mrs. Edwards, was a role model for me,” Eckert said. “Her standards and expectations were so high that I did not want to let her down.”

Marburger echoed the sentiment in discussing what it felt like to take on the job Eckert had thrived in for 26 years.

“I knew when I took on this challenge that I had very big shoes to fill,” she said.

Blinn’s future vocational nursing students have big shoes to fill as well. The program consists of classroom, laboratory and clinical experiences, some of which begin at 6:30 a.m. Hospitals and other health care facilities throughout the Brenham area are utilized for clinical rotations. Students are expected to spend 35-40 hours in scheduled, attendance-mandatory activities.

But after the students are licensed, all that effort proves worthwhile, as they are qualified to work in home health, dialysis, hospitals, clinics and physicians’ offices. Students who wish to become registered nurses can work while they complete their final year of training for RN certification.

“There’s a job almost anywhere in nursing,” Marburger said. “If you go to a hospital and you don’t enjoy working there you can go to a clinic or a physician’s office. You can almost pick and choose the hours and days you want to work, and there’s a lot of demand for nurses right now.”

There’s an even greater demand for nurses who have graduated from a program with Blinn’s tradition of excellence.

“To be a successful nurse, you have to be a caring person, and all the nurses I have been acquainted with through Blinn College have really cared,” Eckert said. “If you really have that feeling of caring about the patient, you’re going to practice safe nursing, treat patients with respect and be their advocate.”