Bethel will host Alaska’s only licensed practical nursing certificate program

A profile shot of a building.
Yuut Elitnaurviat and Alaska Pacific University are partnering to offer Alaska’s only licensed practical nursing certificate program in Bethel. (Dean Swope/KYUK)

A new nursing program is coming to Bethel, and it’s the only one in Alaska. Students in the program will earn a licensed practical nursing certificate. Applications are being accepted for the inaugural class.

The program is a team effort between Alaska Pacific University and Yuut Elitnaurviat, the workforce development center in Bethel. APU is providing the faculty and curriculum. Yuut Elitnaurviat is providing the facilities.

There are many tiers in the nursing field. A licensed practical nurse, or LPN, certificate is a step above a certified nursing assistant and below an associate’s degree in nursing, said APU director of admissions Toni Riley.

“So you’re going to see them usually taking vital signs, administering medications and giving injections, and also just getting patients ready for their medical exams and surgeries and recording a lot of medical information and medical records,” Riley said. “So they really work in all areas of health care.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for health care workers in rural areas. A quick search on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation website shows 25 job openings for LPNs in Bethel alone.

“The average salary for an LPN right now in Bethel is starting a little over $30 an hour,” Riley said.

APU has been expanding its nursing program in recent years, and Riley said it saw a potential partnership in Bethel. Yuut Elitnaurviat operates a six-week certified nursing assistant program. That program can act as a prerequisite for the clinical training required for the new LPN program. Other occupations can also provide that required clinical background.

“Anyone that’s a medical assistant or a health aide, paramedic, EMT or even, like, a dental health aide, all of those kind of count as that proof of clinical experience,” Riley said.

Other application requirements include an online application form, passing an anatomy and physiology class, a high school or GED transcript, a background check and an interview with nursing faculty.

“Just to learn more about them, know more about them and definitely connect with them to see, you know, what their background is and what their experiences are, and really why they want to get involved in in health care,” Riley said.

The LPN program will run two semesters over one year. Lectures will be delivered online, and students will have in-person classes to practice clinical skills every other week on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Applications for the inaugural class are being accepted until Nov. 30. Classes start on Jan. 10.

“We’re just really excited,” said Riley. “We know that it’s a new program and there are lots of questions. So I think the biggest thing is just to feel free to reach out to us.”

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Anna Rose MacArthur is a reporter at KYUK in Bethel.

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