The current class of Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) will graduate this month. The 17 students in the class are on an accelerated program, completing what is normally a three year course in two years. They started in the fall of 2020 at a time when many things had shut down because of the corona virus.

LPNs are in demand and seven of the students already have jobs.

“That was huge thing for me,” commented Emily Box. “I can have my dream job at 19.”

Most are graduating high school students and the program gives them a chance to move right into a well-paying career that has a future. The program is run by Bedford County Public Schools, but adults can also enroll and a few of them were well beyond high school age when they started.

Tracy Witt, at 49, is the oldest in the group. Savannah West, who is 18, is the youngest.

It was a challenge. The first year, they could only meet in person two days a week, so they had to do a lot of work on-line. But they did things that helped.

“A lot of us have good study buddies,” said Rebkah Mosley.

One student had a particular challenge. She became pregnant and gave birth in December.

They all had personal reasons for signing up for the class.

“We were all impacted by healthcare in different ways,” said Box.

The course is a combination of classroom work and hands-on work where they put into practice what they have learned. Some of the work is done with realistic dummies that allow them to practice skills. Other work involved working with real, live patients in the hospital. This included working with corona virus patients. They wore N95 masks and other protective gear when they did that. Was that scary?

“A little bit,” said Emma Clements.

Along with getting jobs, they are also looking to the future. Some — 12 of them — are in the LPN/RN bridge program and will become registered nurses. Three of them hope to eventually become nurse-practitioners. They became close. Braydon Cardwell described the class as like a big family. Kiana Jackson said they are all like distant cousins and will keep in touch.

They had a little advice for the next class.

“If you keep your head down you will be all right,” commented Jordan Thompson.

“It’s all worth it in the end,” said Tamra Tuck.

“You are never too old to go back to school,” said Witt.