RN program caters to paramedics’ schedules

April Vanderlip instructs Chuck Baltagler with Villages Public Safety, right and Max Riddle, with Marion County Fire Rescue, on how to do a patient transfer from a bed to a wheel chair Thursday afternoon July 12, 2012. The paramedics have started in the Taylor College Paramedic Bridge Program which began in May. They will earn their AS degrees in Nursing in 5 semesters. The private college designed the curriculum and scheduling of classes around the paramedics schedules.

(Ocala.com) BELLEVIEW — A local paramedic on a mission to find a registered nursing program that would cater to the odd schedules of firefighters led him early this year to the doorstep of Taylor College, a private nursing school.

Marion County Fire Rescue’s Kevin Troup, 29, met with Taylor President Diana Hammond, and pitched a program that would give paramedics some nursing school credits toward an associate’s degree in professional nursing.

Before Hammond would commit to creating such a program, she needed Troup to find 50 paramedics willing to sign up for the $25,000, five-semester course that takes 20 months to complete.

Troup returned with 75 names, and the professional nursing program, dubbed the Paramedic to RN program, was launched in May. Thirty professionals — 25 of whom are men — are now enrolled.

“It may be more expensive than others, but that’s OK because Taylor College is working around our (work) schedule,” Troup said.

Several colleges may offer a similar program. However, class schedules are held Monday through Friday and would have forced interested paramedic/firefighters to quit their jobs to attend.

Most firefighters work 24 hours on duty followed by 48 hours off duty. That means they are working and off duty on different days each week. So Taylor College staff worked with Troup to develop a plan.

The solution was very simple. One course is held every Tuesday and duplicated on Wednesday; a second course is held Thursday and duplicated on Friday. No matter the work schedule, a firefighter can attend.

Once paramedics graduate from Taylor’s program, they can then take the state registered nurse exam. The graduates also will receive an associate’s degree in nursing from Taylor.

Most of the students say they plan to work for their county fire departments as a paramedic after graduation and work as an RN on their off time.

The main reason for the extra education is job security. In tough economic times, government jobs are no longer as secure. There have been pay freezes and they fear layoffs may be next if the economy doesn’t rebound.

Chuck Baltzagler, 42, an 18-year veteran who works as a paramedic/firefighter for The Villages Public Safety Department, said acquiring his RN is something in his best financial interest. He noted that the average salary of an RN is significantly greater than a paramedic.

Standing nearby, Max Riddle, 36, a Marion County paramedic/firefighter, said earning an RN license “adds more security for myself and my family.”

Riddle said government agencies nationwide are having financial problems, including the city of Scranton, Pa., which recently cut all employees’ salaries to minimum wage.

“I can’t live on minimum wage,” he said.

April Vanderlip, Taylor’s community liaison, said the first semester of the new program has been geared toward required general education subjects that the students did not take when getting their paramedic certification.

The students are taking English, math, psychology and ethics. Then, the students will take health care-related training, easing away from the fast-paced critical care mentality they have been trained to perform.

Vanderlip said certified paramedics automatically have 17 credits toward the professional nursing program, which requires 72 credits to complete. Ten of the 30 students received $2,000 grants from Taylor College, she noted.

Munroe Regional Medical Center works with Taylor in what is called a School Affiliated Partnership. Munroe staffers talk to students about the types of positions the hospital offers.

Founded in 1999, Taylor College is located in a 11,000-square-foot building at 5190 SE 125th St., just off County Road 484.

The college offers associate degrees in professional nursing, LPN to ADN nurse bridge, and physical therapist assistant. The college also offers a practical nursing diploma program.

Taylor offers career preparation courses to become a nursing assistant, phlebotomist and EK technician. Taylor also has a streamlined online application process on its website,www.TaylorCollege.edu.

From January 2011 until March 2012, 20 of 27 — 74 percent — of Taylor College’s professional nursing students passed the state RN exam. That’s third locally compared with the College of Central Florida’s 96 percent (121 out 126 students) and Rasmussen College’s 81 percent (56 of 69).

Taylor College is accredited by the Council on Occupational Education, which was created in 1971 as the Commission on Occupational Education Institutions of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.