By Tiffany King
The College of Coastal Georgia will celebrate the 50th graduating classes of the Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) and Associate of Radiologic Sciences programs this week. Both the ASN and radiologic science majors have been fixtures of the institution from its days as Brunswick Junior College to its current identity as the four-year College of Coastal Georgia.
"The College and community have always valued and supported the Nursing and Radiologic Sciences programs. They have a long history of being strong programs, producing excellent nurses and radiologic technologists, and our graduates have consistently scored higher than the national averages on the licensure and registry exams," said Interim Dean of Nursing and Health Sciences Dr. Lydia Watkins. "Many of the nurses and radiologic technologists in this area are graduates from one of the programs, so it makes me proud to work at the College of Coastal Georgia knowing the impact our graduates and programs have made in this community. What an exciting time to celebrate 50 years of students, graduates, and alumni of these programs."
Nursing and Radiologic Sciences graduates receive a standing ovation from family and community members during a pinning and honor society induction ceremony in May 2018.
The ASN program accepted its first class in 1967 at Brunswick Junior College. Forty graduates earned their associate degree in 1969, and went on to provide professional, compassionate, and safe nursing care for clients and groups of clients across the lifespan. As the College grew from a community college to a four-year state institution, the ASN program held onto its status as one of the premier nursing programs in the state. The program is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing and continues to earn commendations for its curriculum. ASN graduates have achieved a 100 percent pass rate on the national NCLEX-RN licensure exam every year since 2016.
"We have produced graduates who have gone on to become nurse practitioners, clinical nurses, other advanced nurse practitioners, and nurse educators," said Dawana Gibbs, associate professor of nursing and ASN program coordinator. "Our graduates are working across the nation and internationally. Although we started small, we still maintain the spirit and strength the program has had since its inception."
In 1967, the Glynn-Brunswick Memorial Hospital—now Southeast Georgia Health System—started the Radiology Technology certificate program. The first class graduated in 1969 and then Brunswick Junior College assumed responsibility of the certificate program from the hospital. It was led from 1973 to 2009 by Program Director Dianne Castor, who was an alum of the certificate program. The program received initial national program accreditation by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology in 1976 and a year later the certificate was converted to an Associate of Science degree.
Radiologic science students now have access to a state-of-the art radiography unit in the Nunnally Health and Science building. Students spend up to 900 hours in varying clinical environments, where they experience diverse community engagement.
"This affords the students a unique perspective of the community we live in. Radiologic Sciences graduates are expected to be able to step into this environment and perform the day they graduate," said Interim Program Director of Radiologic Science Tina Spaulding. "The extensive amount of time spent in clinic prepares the graduates to immediately become a valuable member of the health care team."
Both programs boast 95% to 100% job placement rates, with many non-traditional and first-generation students graduating as strong candidates for their field. Not only do instructors bring more than 30 years of experience to the programs but they can also relate to current students with their own personal college experiences. The faculty are proud to claim three ASN program alumni and one radiologic science alum as instructors. ASN and radiologic science have also benefited from community partnerships. Southeast Georgia Health System has remained the main clinical site and partner for both programs over the past 50 years.
"Our program wouldn't be as strong without our community partners, the College of Coastal Georgia Foundation, and clinical facilities—especially Southeast Georgia Health System," said Gibbs. Spaulding also commended the hospital for its continued support for the radiology program.
College of Coastal Georgia President Michelle Johnston is proud of the College and the School of Health Sciences and Nursing for reaching such an important milestone.
"We are honored to celebrate our 50th graduating classes of the ASN and Associate of Science in Radiologic Sciences programs. These programs continually produce excellent healthcare professionals who give back to both the college and community. The long history of both programs at the College stands as a testament to the excellence of our faculty and the quality of instruction students receive and the benefits of community partnerships and donor support," Johnston said.
Watkins hopes that graduates will continue to practice the values they have learned at Coastal Georgia long into their healthcare careers.
"We not only strive to graduate students in the nursing and radiologic sciences programs who will be excellent healthcare providers, but throughout their programs we also teach and model professionalism, how to work in a team, and the importance of giving back to the community," Watkins said. "We want them to be well-rounded individuals who are great representatives of our College and programs."