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CCIU PNP graduates 74 new practical nurses during COVID-19 pandemic

Downingtown— The Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU) Practical Nursing Program (PNP) is observing National Nurses Week, which runs from May 6-12, by celebrating the accomplishments of the 74 practical nursing students who have graduated from the program since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. These graduates are from three different classes: PNP Class 125, PNP Class P02 and PNP Class 126. 

Dr. Steve Gerhard, CCIU assistant executive director, attributed PNP’s success over the last year to its focus on serving the present needs of the community while also focusing on preparing students to anticipate future needs. “Throughout this pandemic, our incredible students and staff have worked diligently to prepare themselves to meet the needs of the present moment as well as those of the future. All 74 of our graduates have selflessly given of themselves by helping others in need. They are truly heroes and we couldn’t be prouder of them,” said Gerhard.   

The past year, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, has had an impact on the delivery of education to nursing students. Following the announcement of stay-at-home orders, restricted access within healthcare facilities and ever-changing guidelines made it challenging for nursing programs to utilize traditional educational strategies.  

Nancy Haughton, who will be retiring as the PNP director on June 30 after 18 years of service to the program, noted that PNP’s ability to continue ensuring a quality education for students stemmed from lessons that the program has learned over the last 64 years. “Over PNP’s long history, the program has always stepped up to the plate to help meet the needs of the community. We are fortunate to have incredible students and staff members who worked extremely hard to help make sure that, when our community needed help, we were preparing future LPNs to enter the workforce and join the fight against COVID-19. We are also thankful for our clinical partners for working with us to make sure that students received the hands-on experience they needed to become outstanding LPNs,” said Haughton.  

After the closure of schools in March 2020, PNP immediately had to transition its entire curriculum online. While some coursework was simpler to transition online, one of the most difficult things to account for was the lack of clinical experience early on in the pandemic. Staff, many of whom work in the field in addition to teaching, were crucial in helping PNP find creative ways to simulate these clinical experiences at home until students were able to return to their rotations.  

Dr. Kirk Williard, director of Career, Technical & Customized Education at the CCIU, attributes the successful graduation of so many healthcare professionals to the PNP faculty and staff. “The PNP staff’s experience in hospitals and healthcare facilities during COVID-19, during which time they were also teaching, were invaluable in helping to make sure our graduates were ready to be impactful contributors to healthcare organizations in Chester County and beyond,” said Dr. Williard.  

In addition to the 74 students who graduated from PNP between March 2020 and May 2021, there are additional students set to graduate from the program by September 2021. PNP Class PT10, based out of Downingtown, and PNP Class WG08, based out of West Grove, are expected to graduate an additional 31 students over the coming months. These graduates, many of whom have already passed their NCLEX examination to become licensed practical nurses (LPNs), are already making an impact in a wide variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals, emergency rooms, assisted living facilities, public clinics and in private practice settings.  

Beth Ann Puckett, the incoming PNP director who will begin leading the program on July 1, 2021, believes that PNP is well positioned to continue meeting the changing needs of the healthcare industry in the future. “As someone with 20 years of experience as a bedside nurse and as an administrator in healthcare settings, I know that there is an urgent need for healthcare professionals as we continue to see the healthcare needs of many patients increase. We look forward to building upon PNP’s legacy of excellence to help prepare a new generation of LPNs to make a difference in our community’s healthcare outcomes,” said Puckett. 


To learn more about the Chester County Intermediate Unit’s Practical Nursing Program, visit their website.