Northwest-Shoals Community College celebrates 50th anniversary of nursing program – Update Alaba

For 50 years, Northwest-Shoals Community College (NW-SCC) has been training nurses to serve the people of Alabama and beyond. On Nov. 18, the college invited its nursing graduates, community members and those who have benefited from the caring hands of NW-SCC alumni back to its Phil Campbell campus to celebrate the milestone.

For Ann Bales, a 1976 graduate and retired NW-SCC instructor, her involvement in the nursing program ranks among the most meaningful events of her life.

“Nursing has been the most amazing thing in my life, aside from my kids,” Bales said in a news release about the event. “You experience things that change who you are as a person forever.”

Sandi Barnes, a retired hospital executive and 1979 graduate, also described her experience at NW-SCC as monumental.

“This outstanding program not only allowed me to graduate with a degree in nursing, but also opened my mind to the vast possibilities that health care offers and greatly needs,” said Barnes, who served as vice president of patient services and chief nursing officer at Helen Keller Hospital in .Sheffield and chief nursing officer and CEO of North Alabama Shoals Hospital in Muscle Shoals.

A nursing student at Northwest-Shoals Community College is preparing IV. (contributed)

“I have experienced the wonderful opportunities of many aspects of the healthcare industry in our community, from clinical nursing to hospital administration, through the foundation I received from Northwest-Shoals,” Barnes said. “I will forever be grateful that the dedicated, outstanding faculty and strong curriculum allowed me to understand how to meet the diverse needs of patients.”

The nursing program began in 1972 on the Phil Campbell campus to help alleviate the shortage of registered nurses in northwest Alabama. The program has grown from an inaugural class of 30 to nearly 100 students.

The campus was founded in 1963 as Northwest Alabama State Junior College to provide access to postsecondary education for citizens of rural Northwest Alabama. It was the first public junior college in what was to become the Alabama Community College System. The Shoals campus was established in 1966 as the Joe Wheeler State Trade School to provide vocational and technical training.

First class, circa 1963, at what became Northwest-Shoals Community College. (contributed)

In 1989, the State Board of Education created Northwest Alabama Community College through the consolidation of Northwest Alabama State Junior College and Northwest Alabama State Technical College in Hamilton. Shoals Community College was created through the consolidation of Muscle Shoals State Technical College and the Tuscumbia Campus of Northwest Alabama State Junior College. Then, in 1993, Northwest-Shoals Community College was created by merging the Phil Campbell Campus and Shoals Community College with Northwest Alabama Community College. The merger was designed to provide more efficient and effective educational services to the residents of rural northwest Alabama and the Shoals region.

Today, more than 4,000 students attend NW-SCC. More than 75% of students benefit from financial aid, which is consistent with the college’s mission to support a diverse population from various income levels, including students from traditionally underserved communities.

On average, school officials said, students at NW-SCC save 50 to 60% in tuition costs compared to traditional four-year colleges or universities. These savings can often be the difference in a student having the funds to transfer after two years to another institution and earn a four-year degree. The Alabama Power Foundation is among the supporters of NW-SCC.

Brittney Humphres, executive director of nursing at the Phil Campbell Campus, praised the nursing faculty as “the heart of the program.” Nearly 100 people attended the celebration, including NW-SCC President Jeff Goodwin and State Representative Jamie Kiel of Russellville.

Humphres described the nursing faculty as “true student advocates who truly care about our students succeeding in their careers.”

Learn more about NW-SCC and the nursing program at nwscc.edu.

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