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Chemeketa nursing program ranked second in Oregon

Nursing student with her first year patch. Photo by Cecelia Love-Zhou

This article was edited for clarity after it was originally posted.

Chemeketa’s nursing program was recently listed as one of the tops in the state of Oregon, the same year as its 50th anniversary, by RegisteredNursing.org. The program was ranked second out of the 27 accredited nursing schools in Oregon.

Connie Riecke has been an instructional specialist inside of the health and science department for 33 years and has been in the medical field since she was 14 years old.

“[Nursing] never stays the same,” Riecke said. “It is ever-changing. So once you get into a career, it does not matter if you come in as a basic nursing assistant, or you go right into nursing or you become a dental assistant. You can change your career within the healthcare environment and do something new and create a new adventure for yourself.”

But before a Chemeketa student can exercise that career flexibility, they must first be accepted into the program. Chemeketa’s requirements for entry are high, and most students that apply for the program each year are rejected. This past year, the program received over 200 applicants, but only accepted 40—under 20 percent of applicants.

“I would think first, you have to have extreme dedication to what your goals are,” Riecke said, “and if you are not committed to those goals and committed to working at achieving the highest skills and knowledge then you’re going to discount your education and where you want to go.”

Anna Fechter is a first-year student of nursing at Chemeketa. She was initially rejected by the program but accepted on a subsequent try. “I think you really have to be all in or not,” she said. “It is a lot of work, it is a lot of dedication, you really have to set aside everything around your life for nursing. Nursing has to be your first priority.”

“I honestly love it,” Fechter said. “I love my cohort. We have a lot of energy and love how we are all uplifting and we are a team. We are together for two years, so knowing that and knowing how difficult it is, we stuck together and encourage one another when we need, and the instructors have been amazing.”

The program’s clinical classes have only eight students per instructor—that’s the mandated maximum. “I think having those other students to bounce off ideas helps you learn more,” Fechter said, “and I think eight to ten is good. Anything over that I think is overwhelming for not only the instructor but for the students as well.”

The program also has a deep set of local ties, working closely with area medical facilities to stay current on advances in the medical field, while many of the program’s instructors graduated from the program themselves before they returned to teach.

“Each program has their own advisory board who are members of the community who are out there already, leaders and working in the field,” Riecke said. “So, they come to us and they advise us on what the new trends are and where education is going.”

Inside the program, the passion for learning flows from student to staff. “I think it’s the passion of the program,” Riecke said. “All of the faculty, ’cause most of our faculty has been out there working for many years and then they come back to be educators so they have had so much experience and they bring that to the students, so they bring the passion.”

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