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Nursing school celebrates opening
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Belinda Morris, left, of St. Petersburg and Optanie Numa Marc of Clearwater attend to a “patient” in the skills lab of the Christian International School of Healthcare Professions during its open house Nov. 1.
LARGO – The Christian International School of Healthcare Professions celebrated its grand opening Nov. 1, inviting the community to tour the nearly 37,000 square feet of facilities where students learn all aspects of being a nurse.

The programs the school offers are tough, and the teachers strict, but the students say they’ve impressed their peers with what they’ve learned in a short amount of time.

“We understand why it’s hard, because we have someone’s life in our hands. You have to be competent and capable of caring for many patients, not just one,” said LaTasha Love, who’s been a student only since Sept. 4. “It’s an excellent school.”

Love said she’s always had a passion for nursing, but especially after her mom died at age 56.

“You always wonder what could somebody have done better,” Love said, though she admits that her mother was beyond help. “There’s always a way to save a life.”

The Christian International School of Healthcare Professions is a fairly new business, first established in Florida in 2010. The school’s first location was on 131st Street in Seminole, but it outgrew the space in about a year, said Irma Simmons, nursing program director for the school. They bought the building at 300 E. Bay Drive and moved in January.

The school’s very first class graduated in August. Currently the school is teaching eight students in the practical nursing program and another six in either the second or third semester of their studies to become a registered nurse.

“We have others coming in January in much larger numbers,” Simmons said.

Belinda Morris of St. Petersburg has been a certified nursing assistant for 19 years and said she heard about the school before it moved to Largo. She began praying about her decision, and the school and its program offerings “just grabbed me,” she said. She learned later how “excellent” the educators are.

“They don’t stop until we learn it, (until) it’s instilled in us, into our cells,” she said. “It really is a good school.”

Optanie Numa Marc of Clearwater is originally from Haiti, one of 10 children. She has a background in computer programming and security, but now is studying to become the first nurse among her siblings, a skill she hopes to take back to her home country.

“I was born to be a nurse. There were obstacles to conquer, I think,” she said. “That’s how it is. It’s life.”

Aside from clinical rotations, the students spend a considerable amount of time in the skills lab, which is where the “magic happens,” School Administrator Dr. Carolyn Farrell explained during the open house.

“The skills lab is equipped with hospital beds and equipment so they get a chance to do hands-on practice in a nonthreatening environment before we take them into a clinical rotation where they’re actually working on patients,” she said.

Working with life-size patient simulators that create live-action emergency scenarios and symptoms, students can learn everything from the basics to advance care in nursing, Simmons said.

“This is really a happening place,” she said, demonstrating how she can give a voice to a “pregnant” obstetrics simulator, through a microphone from a dark side room where Simmons controls the simulations.

Simmons said she is very involved with the lives of the students themselves, mentoring them and ministering to them to equip them “emotionally, physically and mentally.” In addition, students become involved in the ministry as well.

“Paying it forward is huge. I do incorporate the missions of this institution within this actual program,” Simmons said. “They do minister to the homeless … and even the homeless (pregnant) moms out there that no one wants to talk about. My students take care of them.”

The hours of hands-on practice prepares students for the vigors of the nursing profession.

“When they graduate, they’re work-ready,” Simmons said. “As a matter of fact, the last two classes that we graduated, they all have jobs, from all of our clinical sites. We have a 100 percent pass rate so far with all of our students.”

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