Valley College’s nursing panel provides insightful information for current and upcoming students

The virtual nursing panel was hosted by Valley College mathematics Professor Luz Shin and STEM Counselor Kassidy Miller.

By Megan Reyes, Staff Writer

A STEM panel featuring Valley College nursing staff was held in mid-April to talk to students about their careers and their experience working during the pandemic. (Graphic Illustration by Vickie Guzman/The Valley Star)

Valley College’s nursing faculty held a panel that addressed questions regarding the workload and experiences from staff members and current students.

The event on April 16 at 1:30 p.m. was hosted by Kassidy Miller, the STEM counselor at Valley. Miller gave the floor to the four nursing instructors to introduce themselves and share what brought them to Valley. Students were given an opportunity to ask questions about the program and how to apply.

The nursing program admits 40 students per semester for the fall and spring semesters. The prerequisites can be found on the website.

Professor Wendy DuFour has been teaching at Valley for 20 years and has been a registered nurse for 38 years. She applied to nursing school and got into the University of Chicago. After nursing school, she moved to California and took her board exam. DuFour worked as a student nurse worker at Kaiser Permanente on Sunset Boulevard and in other hospitals such as Cedars-Sinai and Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center later in her career. She went back to school to get her master’s degree as a clinical nurse specialist because she knew she wanted to be an educator. She applied to be an instructor at Valley and later became a permanent faculty member.

“Nursing is wonderful and rewarding, and still a very exciting and dynamic profession that is ever changing,” said DuFour. “You will always have a job and will always be challenged.”

The second professor to introduce herself was Marichu Gan. She studied in the Philippines and finished her bachelor's degree of nursing in the ’90s. She has training in the ICU, pediatric nursing and medical surgical nursing. Gan also has a master’s of arts and nursing degree. She worked in various hospitals such as Cedars-Sinai, Kaiser Permanente and Daniel Freeman. She started working at Valley in 2014 and was hired full-time; she later went back to school and got her doctorate of nursing practice.

Geraldine Weber shared her experience with switching her previous career path to nursing. She teaches geryactric nursing and psychiatric mental health nursing. She started with a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and worked for a pharmaceutical company for eight years. She went back to school to get her bachelor’s degree and got a job right away at UCLA. She has been working at Valley for 10 years. She now works as a nurse practitioner at a skin clinic.

Preethmol Puthiakunnel, department chair of the nursing program, completed her BSN in India in 1995. She came to America in 2001, and her first job was at Valley Presbyterian as a pediatric ICU nurse. She worked in two Kaiser Permanente hospitals — one on Sunset Boulevard and the other in Woodland Hills — before she became an instructor in Valley in 2009. She got connected to the school because many college students came to Valley Presbyterian for pediatric rotation.

After the introductions and a question and answer portion, various breakout rooms were created to ask specific professors more questions in smaller groups.

Puthiakunnel expressed the challenges and how the pandemic affected her life as well as the students in the nursing program. She addressed that in the beginning of the pandemic, all clinical facilities were closed and students need to have clinicals in order for them to graduate. She found out that students could work as a COVID tester at the volunteer agency named Core, which helped them complete their clinicals.

“My number one challenge was that it is COVID and now where am I going to find the clinicals?” said Puthiakunnel in an interview. “The students at the time knew we had so many restrictions everywhere.”

Miller asked the nursing professors what their favorite thing about being a nurse was.

“My favorite part about being a nurse is the diversity because I am able to work in multiple areas of my field of study,” said Weber. “I like seeing the privilege of helping people who are in unbelievably horrible situations.”