Northeast nursing student initiates volunteer support group

BLOUNTVILLE – Rumor has it that nursing students have little free time.

Gretchen Miller, an upcoming graduate of the nursing program at Northeast State Community College, found enough time to initiate a volunteer support group in her community to help individuals suffering from mental health problems.

“We hope to start a chapter fairly soon in Carter County,” said Miller. “It is a peer-based group for people with mental illness and families with mental illness.”

She contacted a local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) about setting up an affiliate in Carter County. NAMI sponsors volunteer support chapters across the country. The organization gives support to patients and family members dealing with substance abuse and mental health issues.

As a member of the College’s first class of nursing students, Miller encountered mental health service needs during her clinical rotations for health care specialties. She said mental health care became her preferred area while going through her clinical rotation at Wellmont Ridgeview Pavilion in Bristol Virginia.

“I took an eight-week clinical on how to cope with illness and how not to be judgmental of the person,” said Miller, a Hampton resident. “I liked the experience so I called a few people at the national NAMI office and they put me in touch with a local chapter.”

NAMI affiliates are made up of volunteers, friends and family of people with long-term mental illness, who come together to support each other, learn more about mental illness, educate their communities and advocate for change. More than 40 chapters operate in Tennessee including Bristol, Kingsport, Mountain City, and Johnson City. NAMI affiliates groups offer classes like Beginnings/NAMI Basic for parents and caregivers of children with mental illness and With Hope in Mind for family and friends of adults with mental illness.

“We need five members to establish an affiliate volunteer group,” said Miller. “Providing this help does not require a medical degree – anyone who would want to volunteer can do it.”

Miller will graduate with her associate of applied science degree in nursing next week. She hopes to specialize in mental health care when she enters the career field. She will sit for the state nursing licensure exam later this summer.
The importance of getting people to trust and open up about their health problems inspired Miller to organize the chapter.

“It is an underserved population,” she said. “NAMI tries to fulfill the gaps for those suffering with mental illness.”


Northeast State nursing graduates get their pins

 Northeast State Community College celebrated a milestone this week by hon­oring the first class of nursing graduates with the traditional “pinning” ceremony at the Wellmont Regional Center for the Performing Arts.

The Northeast State Nursing program honored 31 students graduating with the associate of applied science degrees this spring.  Dr. Melessia Webb pinned each student with her or his nursing pin representing the College.

“I can’t help but feel proud that I’ve made it,” said Audrea Bailey, who was named as Outstanding Nursing Student of the Year. “It has been a huge challenge.”

The College’s first class of nursing graduates are: Jamie Bare, Alisha Canter, Jennifer Gilliam, Ashley Johnson, of Bluff City; Chrystal Johnston, of Bristol; Monica Gibson, of Church Hill; Tara Lynn Gregg, Tracy Lawhern, and Keith Nave, of Elizabethton; Charity Helton, Erwin; Pamela Altman, Fall Branch; Elizabeth Brown, Gretchen Miller, and Marcye Montgomery, of Hampton; Hester Burns, Rozina Large, Sandra Sexton, Lora Slemp, Mary Ann Sparks, and Tina Williams, all of Johnson City; Shawna Davis and Jessica Webster, of Jonesborough; Jessica Benton, Danielle Clark, Mark O’Neal, Traci Parker, Marian Plitzko, and Teresa Tabor, all of Kingsport; Audrea Bailey and Melissa Hensley, of Limestone; and Sheila Laughlin, of Piney Flats.

The pinning ceremony symbolizes the culmination a student’s professional nursing education. The nursing graduates received their diplomas at Northeast State’s spring commencement on May 12.

Gretchen Miller received the Community Outreach Award for her efforts in establishing an affiliate chapter of the National Association of Mental Illness to support mental health patients and their families. Also recognized were nursing students Jessica Benton and Hester Burns who graduated with perfect 4.0 grade point averages. Burns also received the Adult Learner of the Year Award.

“It is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” said Burns, who held a full-time job throughout her enrollment in the program and still graduated in two years. “I’ve had many 20 hour days; I’d sleep for three hours and go do another 20 hours.”

After two semesters of intense classroom lecture and laboratory work, the programs final two semesters brought the addition of clinical education.  The students rotated through a variety of health care specialties including intensive care, mental health, and emergency care at hospitals and health care facilities around the region. The program forged deep relationships among students.

“We have all learned a lot about each other and I think we have all made a lot of lasting friendships,” said Bailey, who has accepted a job in the intensive care unit of a local hospital. “I am going to miss everybody.”

Students remarked about adjusting their traditional ideas of learning when faced with the program’s academic demands. Students said critical thinking and situational analysis of scenarios represented the biggest learning demand of nursing. Despite the grueling work, Burns said the human element of nursing and providing patients with care carried the deepest meaning to any nursing student.

“You feel like something you’re doing has made their day somewhat better,” said Burns, “and that is what a lot of nursing boils down to.”


Siemens technology brings new teaching tools to Northeast State

 Students at Northeast State Community College will get access to cutting edge industrial equipment thanks to a donation from a regional business unit of one of the world’s largest technology companies.

Siemens Energy and Automation, Inc. (SE&A) has donated several items of computer equipment in excess of $140,000 to the Northeast State Foundation to be used as teaching tools for industrial technology students.

“Northeast State deeply appreciates the generous gift from Siemens,” said Katie Yates, vice president of Institutional Advancement at Northeast State. “The collaboration between industry and higher education gives students excellent opportunities to enhance their technical skills while earning degrees.”

The company delivered technology systems consisting of Siemens IPC’s (Industrial PC’s), S7-300 Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) systems, Human Machine Interfaces, and PLC accessories to the College this spring.

“The equipment helps students learn how to write and modify programs used in industry,” said Fred Cope, associate professor of electrical technology at Northeast State. “It covers operations and applications for programs used in industry.”

Cope said the donations were welcomed additions to give students experience with the technology used in a professional setting. PLC simulator modules were specifically included in the equipment donations in order improve the classroom educational benefits of the equipment.  Specialized training was provided by the Siemens PLC training department to ensure college instructors utilize the systems most effectively in the classrooms and laboratories.

The local Siemens demo team, responsible for assembling and distributing Siemens demonstration equipment throughout the United States, provided the assembly and verification of the donated systems.  The frame mounting system for the hardware was donated by the ATFAB company.

In donating automation equipment to colleges, Siemens is making goodwill contributions to help educate students on practical automation equipment and forming a partnership with Northeast State.  The equipment donations give local students the opportunity to become familiar with Siemens PLC products, preparing them to work with industrial automation equipment once they enter the mainstream workforce.

“Education has always been a priority at Siemens in the United States and across the globe, especially in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” said Raj Batra, vice president, Automation and Motion Division, Siemens Energy & Automation, Inc.  “This donation to the Northeast State Foundation is an opportunity for Siemens to not only support an outstanding educational program, but also help train the workforce of the future.”

“We are thrilled our students will have opportunity to use computer applications from one of most innovative companies in the world,” said Yates.

Northeast State enrolls more than 5,000 students at campuses in Blountville, Kingsport, Elizabethton, and Mountain City. The College is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Siemens Energy & Automation, Inc. is one of Siemens’ operating companies in the U.S. Headquartered in the Atlanta suburb of Alpharetta, Ga., Siemens Energy & Automation manufactures and markets one of the world’s broadest ranges of electrical and electronic products, systems and services to industrial and construction market customers. Its technologies range from circuit protection and energy management systems to process control, industrial software and totally integrated automation solutions. The company also has expertise in systems integration, technical services and turnkey industrial systems.