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FRONT LINES — The proposed Health and Humans Services building at HCC would have a 16-bed simulation lab where students practice on dummies that can be programmed by instructors. The current facility only has three dummies.

RN, CNA, LPN. The acronyms for nurses — what they mean and what each one does — are usually lost on patients who just want a trained, friendly face to help them feel better.

Each type of nurse or nurse assistant has their own niche and education track. Below is a break down of what each one does, and how they fit into the planned nursing expansion at Haywood Community College.


What it is: A certified nursing assistant, also called a nurses aid, provides personal care, like bathing, feeding and taking vitals. They most commonly work in long-term care facilities.

Education: Nurses aids do not require a two-year degree. Certification is earned through continuing education courses.

Number of slots at HCC now: HCC can take up to 20 students at a time through the continuing education track. HCC also offers an add-on component for nurses aids who want to get certified in administering medication, which requires an additional level of training.

Future slots: No additional slots are planned as part of the expansion.


What it is: A licensed practical nurse can perform many of the same functions as an full-fledged RN, including wound care, administering medication and managing feeding tubes and catheters, but stops short of being responsible for a patient’s care plan. They must work under the supervision of a certified RN, most commonly in long-term care facilities, but also as additional hands in hospitals.

Education: It requires more training and education than a nursing assistant, but can be completed in less time than a full-fledged RN degree, with a one-year diploma.

Number of slots at HCC now: HCC does not have an LPN program currently.

Future slots: HCC plans to add a new LPN track that would accept 15 students a year. It could be completed in 12 months, with a spring, summer and fall component. It would be a stand-alone program with a curriculum that’s separate and apart from the full two-year RN degree.


What it is: A full-fledged nurse that can work in any setting. They are responsible for patients’ care plans and supervise LPNs and nurses aids.

Education: It requires a two-year associates degree.

Number of slots at HCC now: HCC takes 38 new RN students each year. HCC also offers 10 slots in a year-long LPN-to-RN converter track, for those who are currently certified as LPNs and want to become a full-fledged RN.

Future slots: HCC plans to add 12 additional RN slots, growing the program from 38 to 50 incoming students each year.

Partnership with Tri-County CC

Another piece of the puzzle in HCC’s nursing is a long-running partnership with Tri-County Community College to share resources and instructors.

Nursing students from Graham, Clay and Cherokee counties commute to HCC to complete the final year of their two-year degree. The students are still technically enrolled under Tri-County Community College, but HCC hosts the students on its campus and Tri-County splits the cost of the second-year program instructors.

The two schools operate the nursing programs as a “cohort” sanctioned by the state community college system.

Tri-County accepts 38 students a year into its RN program. Those 38 students then come to HCC’s campus to complete the second year of the degree.

Tri-County has another 10 students a year in the LPN-to-RN converter program who are hosted on HCC’s campus.

All tolled, HCC has 134 nursing students taking classes on its campus any given year, not counting the continuing ed nurses aids:

  • 38 of its own first-year RN students
  • 38 of its own second-year RN students
  • 10 of its own LPN-to-RN converter students
  • 38 second-year RN students from Tri-County
  • 10 LPN-to-RN converter students from Tri-County
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