When Kevin Plas started his Lorain County Community College journey, his plan was to earn a degree in criminal justice, with a focus on digital forensics. But after earning a paramedic certification from the college, he knew he had found his passion — and it wasn’t in criminal justice.
Today, he works as an emergency room nurse at the Cleveland Clinic and is confident that he is where he is supposed to be.
“I always knew I liked working with people and helping people,” says Plas, a graduate of Elyria High School. “My dream was to start a career helping others in any way I could.”
He says his experience in LCCC’s nursing program and his paramedic experience were instrumental in preparing him to succeed in a career that requires him to make critical decisions. Also critical was family support, including that of his grandmother, who received her associate degree in nursing from LCCC in the early 1990s, he says.
“During my time in the nursing program, I was fortunate enough to have my father, as well as my grandmother, provide a constant source of encouragement, wisdom and advice,” Plas says. “Whenever I had doubts, she had a way of explaining how beautiful a career in nursing is and the potential we have to make a difference in someone’s life. At the same time, I have never met someone who has worked harder than my father, and I thought of him whenever I felt stressed or overworked.”
Plas’ support and his single-minded focus on his studies paid off — he built on his experience as a paramedic and transitioned to a nursing career. Tracy Parson, DNP, RN, assistant professor in the division of health and wellness sciences at LCCC, witnessed the drive Plas had to make it happen.
“You have to be in charge of your own learning experience,” she says. “You’ll get out of it what you put into it. He put the work in.”
LCCC programs offer real-world experience
LCCC’s health simulation center gives students real-life experience, allowing them to perform tasks as they would in a health care setting. Students also are required to work in a clinical environment, and Plas spent his clinical hours gaining experience in emergency medicine.
“My clinical instructors were instrumental not only to my success but to the success of my classmates,” says Plas. “LCCC has done an excellent job selecting clinical staff.”
Today he works in an emergency room that serves as the regional hub for emergency psychological services, bringing him into contact with people in a wide range of crisis situations. He not only treats people in the ER but also helps patients with after care, getting them placed into shelters or connected with support groups.
Employers find LCCC graduates uniquely prepared for success
Employers report to LCCC that its graduates are exceptionally well-prepared to take on the challenges of the workplace. Parson says one reason for that is the college’s close relationship with local health systems.
“One of the nice things about our faculty is that many of us have gone on for advanced degrees,” Parson says. “Many have a doctorate, and that allows us to forge relationships with clinical partners like the Cleveland Clinic.”
Those relationships give LCCC faculty a strong understanding of what employers are looking for, allowing them to tweak the curriculum as those needs evolve and prepare students for success. Parson says today’s employers seek graduates who possess good assessment skills and critical thinking skills and who can seamlessly transition from being a student into a professional role.
“They have high expectations of them, and we have high expectations of our students, as well,” she says.
LCCC also sets high standards for itself and is always working to improve its nursing program, says Patricia L. Schrull, DNP, MBA, M.Ed, RN, CNE, director of the associate degree nursing program.
In 2016, the program began using a concept-based curriculum that helps nursing students learn concepts that can be applied to multiple situations. The program also uses hands-on activities and interaction, and has added more time in the simulation lab. Few other nursing programs offer those benefits, Schrull says, and the experience shows in its graduates.
Plas says that staff excellence and the college’s in-depth curriculum were part of the reason he chose LCCC. He also cites excellent facilities, low tuition and flexible courses. And he plans to build on his current success, continuing his education and becoming a nurse practitioner working on an acute care team.
He credits LCCC and its faculty for helping him uncover his passion and land him where he is today.
“LCCC provided an affordable and easily accessible education to me in my hometown, and a program tailored specifically to my business life as a full-time paramedic,” he says.