Due to a critical post-war nursing shortage in the 1950’s, the School of Practical Nursing was established in 1959. A year in length, the Practical Nursing Program was able to provide bedside nurses to the workforce much more quickly than the typical three (3) year RN diploma programs. Beginning as the Wilkes-Barre City School of Practical Nursing under the leadership of its first administrator, Ms. Nancy Reese, the first class of 19 students graduated in February 1960. The nursing program which was initially located on the second floor of the Mackin Elementary School, Wilkes-Barre, PA, was then moved to the Guthrie Building, N. Washington Street, Wilkes-Barre, PA, and became the Adult Program Center to the Wilkes-Barre School District. The program, which began classes every September, was in session year round, with clinical assignments beginning in February of each year. Until the late 1960’s, all clinical teaching was done at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, where students had to punch a time clock and received a “stipend” for their clinical experiences. In 1969, with the addition of Mercy Hospital as a clinical site, enrollment increased to 25 students per class. The faculty consisted of 3 full-time instructors, all with B.S.N. in nursing education degrees, being paid $4.00/hour. The Practical Nursing Program continued to grow in the early 1970’s, under the leadership of Ms. Kitty Panzitta. With the opening of the Wilkes-Barre Area Vocational-Technical School in 1971, the Program relocated to this facility. The nursing program became the Practical Nursing Program of the Wilkes-Barre Area Vocational-Technical School, and was sponsored by the Joint Operating Committee of the school.
During the administration of Ms. Mary Lenahan (Cawley) from 1981-2002, the program first received the National League for Nursing Accreditation status in 1990. From 2002 to 2018 the program was under the leadership of Mary Beth Pacuska, MSN and is currently under the leadership of Gail Holby, MSN, BSRN. In order to continually meet the demand for nurses, two (2) classes per year are accepted with approximately 80 graduates per year entering the work force. Today, the Practical Nursing Program has a staff of full-time MSN, BSN, and MS prepared faculty members and multiple part-time instructors.
More than 3,800 students have graduated from the Practical Nursing Program. These graduates have proudly represented the Practical Nursing Program in our community by serving in a variety of healthcare settings. Currently, the Practical Nursing Program is approved by the PA State Board of Nursing and fully accredited by the ACEN.
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