TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) —More than 500 students graduated from Ivy Tech Community College Terre Haute as the fall semester concluded on Dec. 19. Graduates are prepared to enter a workforce that has been greatly impacted by COVID-19, with many entering fields that will make a direct impact on public health and welfare in the Wabash Valley.
As the need for healthcare professionals continues to rise, approximately 140 new Ivy Tech healthcare graduates will enter the field in 2021. All graduates have prepared through clinical training, and must now pass board exams before starting work as professional staff.
Ze’Caleb Lyle graduated from Ivy Tech with an EMT certificate in 2019 and has now graduated with his Paramedic Science associate degree. He already works as an EMT for Trans-Care Ambulance, and is now eligible to transition to a Paramedic position. A long-time resident of Vigo County, Lyle said he is looking forward to making an impact locally.
“I was nervous about being able to complete clinical training during the pandemic, but thankfully, the fire department opened back up to us to complete clinicals,” said Lyle. “It has been a great learning opportunity for us.”
Clinical training can sometimes introduce students to the emotional realities of patient care.
“Unfortunately, with COVID and with death rates increasing, we have responded to cardiac arrest patients or patients with breathing difficulties,” said Lyle. “We have had to administer breathing treatments and intubations, and it can be difficult to witness families’ emotions. We always wish we could do more.”
Despite the difficulty of working through a pandemic, Lyle said he is ready to help his community.
“The Paramedic Science program has boosted our self-confidence, strengthened our medic skills, and prepared us to provide all aspects of patient care,” said Lyle.
Stephanie McFaddin, Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) graduate, accepted a position at Regional Hospital in the Intermediate Care Unit and will start in the nurse residency program, which will provide her with additional training. The program will also prepare her to work directly with COVID-19 patients.
“As nursing students, we all want to help as soon as we can,” said McFadden. “It’s a scary time, but it has never been scary to me. I have family working in the healthcare and mental health fields, and I’m ready to help wherever I can as soon as possible. My sister also just started nursing school at Ivy Tech and is in her first semester.”
While working, McFadden will also transfer her ASN degree to Purdue University to work toward a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
Ali Lacer, Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) graduate, said there is an increased need for professionals in all healthcare fields.
“As a nurse, you have to be able to adapt and be ready for anything that comes your way,” said Lacer. “When COVID first hit, so many patients were coming in and hospitals were struggling. Some workers were afraid of COVID and left out of fear. As a nurse, I am ready to go in and take care of people. We have to keep ourselves safe, but masks and PPE accomplishes that. There are people who still need to be taken care of.”
Lacer, whose husband is in the military, plans to work locally in Greene County before becoming a travel nurse.
Graduates in the social work field will also enter a workforce that has been altered by the pandemic.
Sarah Bryant graduated with an Associate of Science in Human Services, and will transfer her degree to a social work bachelor’s degree program.
“What led me to social work is that I’ve always done volunteer work at Habitat for Humanity or local homeless shelters,” said Bryant, a Sullivan County resident. “I’ve seen so many people who are struggling financially, with homelessness, family development, or other issues.”
“With COVID, there is an increase in need for assistance,” she continued. “People are more secluded now, and abuse has gone up. Being secluded has taken a toll on mental health in general, especially on those with mental disabilities. Before COVID, they were able to do grocery shopping and other activities together, but now they can’t. This throws them off from their normal routines.”
After completing her bachelor’s degree, Bryant plans to start her career in social work. In the meantime, she is focused on volunteer work. Through community connections, Bryant is currently organizing donations from grocery stores to local organizations like Our Father’s Arms and other food banks.
“My focus is helping those in need right now,” she said.
Ivy Tech graduates will have a broad impact in the Wabash Valley and beyond. An estimated 85% of graduates from Ivy Tech Terre Haute stay in the school’s service area, and 93% stay within Indiana. Ivy Tech Terre Haute’s service area includes Clay, Daviess, Greene, Knox, Parke, Putnam, Sullivan, Vermillion, and Vigo counties.
Ivy Tech spring classes begin Jan. 19, 2021.