“The nursing program at Luzerne County Community College was the most academically challenging thing I’ve ever done in my life – and also one of the most rewarding. If I could do it all again, I would still start postsecondary education with my community college nursing program because of how well it prepared me for the future,” said Samantha Labenski, who will graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from King’s College this spring. “I know so many people – especially the nurses I work with – who wouldn’t be where they are today without community college. The flexibility, cost savings and quality education I found there changed my life for the better.”
Ms. Labenski – who has worked at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital since September 2018, including a stint in the COVID Unit, and moved to obstetrics after graduating from Luzerne and passing her NCLEX in June 2021 – said her next goal is to save for a house here in Pennsylvania. In addition to wanting to be close to her family, she has formed close relationships and found a career in which she can thrive in the Wilkes-Barre area.
However, being on the front lines during COVID-19, she also saw the devastating impact the pandemic had on the healthcare industry. Pennsylvania desperately needs nurses. Hospitals are reporting record staff vacancies. Patients are waiting hours, sometimes days, for beds due to nursing staff shortages. Ms. Labenski said she sees all of this and knows the healthcare field needs more employees – and she’s proud to be one of them.
“Being employed in the healthcare field right now is mentally and physically draining, but I also really value the personal connections I make with my patients. I see them during some of the hardest days in their lives, but also the most memorable because I work in obstetrics,” Ms. Labenski shared. “I’m honored I get to do this critical work, but we also need more people trained to do this work. The healthcare industry is in a real crisis right now.”
Community college nursing programs provide a way out of this crisis. Pennsylvania’s 15 community colleges educate and train nearly a quarter of a million students annually including critically needed nurses, granting over 75 percent of nursing associate degrees in the Commonwealth.
Per the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing, in 2021, pass rates for first-time NCLEX-RN test takers graduating from Luzerne County Community College was 95.12 percent, which exceeds the national average of 78.78 percent for ADN (Associate Degree Nursing) programs. Based on the percentage of graduates passing the NCLEX-RN for 2021, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) ranks Luzerne’s nursing program in the top 15 percent of local nursing programs. Nationally, Luzerne’s nursing program is ranked in the top 10 percent of associate degree nursing programs and in the top 13 percent of all nursing programs, including those that offer a bachelor’s degree.
Ms. Labenski also said she saved thousands of dollars on the cost of higher education by starting at community college.
“At 17 years old when I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, it was way too expensive for me to start as an undecided undergrad at a four-year college or university. I found both my passion and a pathway to a job in that industry at Luzerne County Community College,” said Ms. Labenski. “I want to tell everyone that there’s nothing wrong with starting at community college; it’s a quality education that costs less. So many of the nurses I know got their start there, and I think community colleges deserve state investment that reflects that.”