Palo Verde College’s New Registered Nursing Program Addresses Critical Need

Palo Verde College’s new Registered Nursing program isn’t just an exciting career opportunity for students — it’s helping the Inland Empire/Desert workforce get back on the mend. 

With a staggering decline in nurses in the region and state since the start of the pandemic, Palo Verde College is addressing the pressing need head-on. Currently, California has the largest deficit of registered nurses in the country, with a projected need for an additional 44,500 nurses by 2030. In the Inland Empire/Desert region alone, there is an estimated 2,324 projected annual job openings for registered nurses through 2026.

“This is very exciting for this community,” says Dr. Theresa Becker, Interim Associate Dean of Nursing and Allied Health at Palo Verde College. “They’ve been waiting decades to get this program, and it’s finally here.”

The newly developed Registered Nursing program made its debut this Spring on the Blythe campus, and it’s starting off strong. The inaugural cohort welcomed 12 students this semester, leaving room for nine licensed vocational nursing students to transition into the program this upcoming fall.

“We have a lot of LVNs that are looking for that career path,” notes Dr. Becker. “Once they get through their prerequisites, they take the transition course, and then they transition into the second year … they’re an RN in a year if they pass their boards.”

The 18-week, one-semester-long transition course is available during the Fall semester for qualified LVN students. Core classes include a comprehensive background in the fundamentals of nursing care and clinical practices in different medical environments.

“[The transition course] helps us make sure that they’re going to succeed in that second year of the RN program,” says the interim associate dean.

For nursing students like Damien Ramirez, the new RN program offers a chance to pursue a career that opens the door to more opportunities, and a healthy salary to match. Registered nurses in California make an average of $125,340 annually, about $63,740 more than licensed vocational nurses.

“We are so grateful for the effort and the passion Palo Verde College has put into this program to allow this community to pursue a career in nursing,” states Ramirez.

Palo Verde College is partnering with regional healthcare facilities, where nursing students learn essential hands-on clinical experiences in the medical field. A few of these on-site partnerships include Eisenhower Health, JFK Memorial Hospital, and El Centro Regional Medical Center. As students finish their clinical practices, they can even secure employment opportunities at the facilities.

“We want to make sure that VN transition students get the right clinical experiences … and that we are refreshing on topics that they may have not been using to ensure that they’re comfortable,” states Dr. Becker. “We will introduce the clinical paperwork, the software programs that we use, et cetera.”

The RN program curriculum also incorporates PVC’s Nursing Simulation Lab, where students can apply learned skills like administering medication, decision making, and practicing holistic care for patients. Nursing students also gain experience in the Regular Skills Lab, where they practice patient care procedures such as changing or positioning patients on the lab’s six basic mannequins.

Dr. Becker explains that the assistant director of the RN program is currently working to receive certification in simulation health care education. She adds, “That’s huge for our nursing students, because a Sim Lab is a safe environment for them to learn and make mistakes.” The RN program is looking to welcome additional adjunct clinical faculty for the program as well.

The nursing curriculum also recently adopted ATI — a valuable software program that helps prepare students to pass the National Council Licensure Exam, or NCLEX, to become a registered nurse. With expected adjustments to the NCLEX coming this year, Dr. Becker says the software is helping students prepare for the exam’s new format.

“We find that with ATI, the NCLEX pass rate is pretty high,” explains Dr. Becker. “There are all these NCLEX prep options to help students get through the program … ATI is a big resource to help get the students where they need to be.” 

The new format will feature the typical multiple-choice and response questions, but also assess students’ decision-making skills and abilities with a variety of case studies. “That will help determine their critical thought process,” continues Dr. Becker. “To be able to follow this patient, their labs, their symptoms, et cetera.”

As a member of the inaugural cohort, nursing students like Ramirez know this program is launching a legacy — one that will benefit the Blythe community for years to come.

“Being able to be a part of the first cohort and pave the way for the future Palo Verde College RN students is both exciting and humbling,” says the proud Pirate.

For additional information about the Registered Nursing program at Palo Verde College, you can visit their program page here.