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Kristin Ruiz has big plans.

As the new practical nursing program director at Southeast Community College in Beatrice, Ruiz is taking a hard look at the future of health care education.

“We’re always talking about how we can expand our programs to meet the needs of surrounding communities,” she said. “There’s really a lot of different ways that you can deliver high quality education, and we’re always trying to make it better.”

Ruiz took over as program director in December of 2017, though she has been an instructor at SCC for more than 11 years. Her transition to the new role has been smooth, Ruiz said, and she is looking forward to more changes in the near future.

“One of my goals as the new program chair is to get out to schools and make it known that we’re here,” she said. “We’re willing and ready to serve. We really are trying to take our programs to the communities and the people in those communities.”

By reaching out to the surrounding communities, Ruiz hopes to draw in more students to the practical nursing program. In Beatrice, SCC provides both a full-time program that runs for a year, as well as a part-time program that takes 18 months to complete. There are currently 29 students enrolled in the part-time program, and 19 full-time students who started in January.

“Practical nursing is a great place to start because we’re a year program, and then students can decide if they like nursing,” Ruiz said. “We also work really hard to make the process to go on, to get the RN, easy.”

The nursing program is currently housed in Jackson Hall, though in the next few years, the program will see another major change with the construction of a new building on SCC’s campus.

“Each campus is getting a brand-new building,” Ruiz said. “On our campus, it’s going to be a general-purpose classroom building. The Health Science program is going to be housed in that building. We’ll get to have a bigger lab space, a simulation center. We’re really excited about that.”

Martha Howe, a practical nursing instructor at SCC in Beatrice, said having a quality education is essential for anyone interested in a career in nursing.

“We’re dealing with people’s lives here; we want to do the best we can do,” she said. “There’s so much involved with nursing that I don’t think a lot of people realize.”

With more than 20 years of teaching experience at SCC, Howe said she stresses the importance of truly caring for others among her students.

“This is your foundation, and then from here, you add to your education, but the most important thing is to care about what you do and about your patients, and give good, quality care,” Howe said.

“It’s all about caring about your patient and your fellow man, and being the best nurse you can be.”

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