Charles Balogh earned a bachelors’s degree from UCLA and spent 15 years in marketing before studying to become a registered nurse. Paula Marie Elizondo worked in the insurance industry for more than two decades before following her calling in tending to others. Felicia Jordan had launched a career as a social worker before opting to start over and pursue nursing.
Balogh, Elizondo and Jordan were among the 29 Grossmont College graduates who on June 5 received their nursing pins during a ceremony attended by friends and family.
“Nursing is something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Elizondo, who is working as a certified nursing assistant at Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa and plans to enroll in an online Grand Canyon University bachelor’s degree program to further her career in the field. “If I could help just one person, it will have been worth it.”
Earning their pins enables the Grossmont College graduates to take the National Council Licensure Examination, the last stop needed before becoming a registered nurse. Many, like Elizondo, will pursue a bachelor’s or master’s degree before settling on a career in the medical profession.
Grossmont College has one of the highest passing rates in the state for students who take the National Council Licensure Examination at nearly 96 percent.
“It is a wonderful program where everyone is nurturing each other and helping them do their best,” said nursing professor Angela Ngo, who has been working at Scripps La Jolla for more than a decade. “Everybody, from the dean to the assistant director to the faculty, is willing to share their knowledge with each other. It is truly a gift to work in a supportive, nurturing environment.”
Jordan, a mother of two young children who lives in Ramona, said she chose Grossmont College because of its reputation. “From the facilities and the simulation labs, to the technology that they’re using and the professionalism and care of the staff, Grossmont has prepared me well for my new career,” she said.
Debbie Yaddow, Grossmont College’s Dean of Allied Health and Nursing, praised the graduates for their dedication and noting what it means to be a nurse.
“It means being able to touch lives without saying a word, just simply by being there and lending support,” Yaddow said. “It means being proud of what you do each and every morning that you look in the mirror. And it truly means making a difference.”
Graduates took different paths to reach their new profession.
Jordan has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Phoenix and was employed as a social worker when she realized that her career could use a master’s degree. “I decided that if I was going to go back to school, I want to do it for something that I would want to do for the rest of my life,” Jordan said. “And that was nursing.”
She said she knew she made the right decision after her first clinical assignment in the Grossmont College program. She became a certified nursing assistant while attending Grossmont and her studies included clinical work at Scripps La Jolla, Sharp Grossmont and Rady Children’s Hospital.
“I have no regrets at all,” Jordan said. “Nursing is a wonderful field to get into. I feel so fulfilled knowing that I’ll be doing something for people and where it won’t feel like work.”
Balogh, 47, has similar feelings. He said he opted to leave his marketing career behind because “it just wasn’t fulfilling to me. I didn’t feel like I was helping people the way I wanted to.”
Elizondo, 45, said she had long aspired for a career in nursing, but ended up working in the insurance industry for 21 years instead. Her motivation came after she became a gunshot victim as a teenager. The care she received during her life-threatening injury inspired her. “From the paramedics to the time I was discharged from the hospital, everybody was dedicated to helping me recover and helping me feel comfortable,” Elizondo said. “This is something I’ve wanted to do for awhile.”
Grossmont College President Sunita “Sunny” Cooke, whose mother was a nurse, told the graduates, “We’re so proud that you spent two years at Grossmont College, and we know you will represent us well when you go out into the community.”
Nurses make up the largest group of licensed health care professionals in the country. By 2020, there will be 1.2 million job openings for registered nurses, including 470,000 openings for RNs with associate degrees, according to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce. And there will be 370,000 job openings for licensed practical nurses and licensed vocational nurses – 134,000 of which will be for LPNs and LVNs with associate degrees.
Community colleges, meanwhile, train more than half of the nation’s health care workforce.
Pinning ceremonies are a symbolic welcoming of new graduates to the nursing profession, and many trace its roots to the 1860s, when Florence Nightengale – the founder of modern nursing – was pinned with the Red Cross of St. George for her work in caring for injured soldiers during the Crimean War. Others say the tradition began centuries earlier during the Crusades when the Knights Hospitaller, who cared for their injured comrades, were given a Maltese cross as they were welcomed into the fold.