October 5, 2006
Tifton -- Here at ABAC, just because agriculture is in the school's name, you shouldn't think that's all the students study. In fact, the most popular major on campus is nursing. And ABAC has a unique program that's helping put a dent in Georgia's nursing shortage.
This may look like a normal class full of nursing students, but it's unlike any other nursing class in Georgia. "It's commonly called our fast track," said Nursing Asst. Professor Troy Spicer. "The bad thing is the shortage doesn't seem to be going away. It's only going to get worse."
Students can become registered nurses in one year by coming to class just one day a week. The goal is simple, to put more nurses into community hospitals in Georgia quickly.
Students must already be a licensed health care professional. Many, like Mark Webb, are paramedics. "I can't just stop work and go to school five days a week like most traditional programs do."
Jenifer Boutwell has a similar story. "I'm very excited about it." She drives all the way from Lake City, Florida every week. "It's a way to get a nursing degree once a week, so that I can still work full time."
But the one day she's in Tifton is an intense day of classroom and hospital training. "We're basically in class from 8:00 until 4:00 and then we're in clinical from 5:00 until 10:30 or 11:00," Boutwell says.
Jenifer knows those busy days will pay off. Soon, she'll be an ER nurse. Mark plans to go into labor and delivery. And both say that couldn't happen without this program and the people at ABAC.
"They want to see you succeed. It feels good to be in a program where you know you're gonna make it," Webb said.
And make it in record time.
The program is extremely competitive. Only about half the number of qualified applicants actually get accepted.