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Del Mar College Marks Milestone, Graduates First Cohort of RN to BSN Degree Completers

Fourteen RNs earn College’s first bachelor’s degree––the Bachelor of Science in Nursing––offered by Nurse Education Department

Article by Melinda Eddleman
Revised article from original release posted on Aug. 18)

Being a nurse requires sacrifice not just in the field but also while preparing for the profession. On Aug. 17, the Del Mar College (DMC) Nurse Education Department pinned 72 students who made many sacrifices while completing their training in the Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN), Registered Nurse (RN) and Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) Programs.

One-by-one, each student walked across the stage during an on-campus ceremony to receive their pin and a battery-operated lantern before taking their place on risers. These women and men who are dedicated to a calling in healthcare then recited the time-honored Florence Nightingale pledge, signifying their commitment  to the profession they’ve chosen.

Del Mar College RN to BSN Graduates_Aug 17 Pinning Ceremony.jpg

The RN to BSN Program is DMC’s first bachelor’s degree, which started in fall 2021; and, the 14 students who completed the program are the first cohort to earn a bachelor’s degree from the College.

The pinning ceremony marked the first milestone with the RN to BSN Program completers getting their pins. And, on Aug 19, these individuals marked a second milestone when they walked the stage in Corpus Christi’s Selena Auditorium to receive their bachelor’s degree during the DMC Summer 2022 commencement ceremony.

“The Nurse Education Department is very proud of our first cohort of RN to BSN graduates and DMC’s first bachelor’s degree recipients,” said Dr. Jennifer McWha, Nurse Education Department Chair and the RN to BSN Program Director. “These students are exiting the program equipped to meet the job market demand in the community, and this credential allows them to help ease the shortage of primary care providers, contribute to better patient outcomes and meet healthcare agencies’ desire for more BSN-prepared nurses.”

With the community, Del Mar College administration and the DMC Board of Regents supporting our vision of conferring a bachelor’s degree in nursing, our new reality means that graduates from the Nurse Education Department will continue to meet the healthcare needs of our community members with differing levels of care.  

Dr. Jennifer McWha, RN, Nurse Education Department Chair
Del Mar College RN to BSN Graduate Ashley Martinez_Nurse Education Department Assistant Professor Melody Skinner

The post-licensure RN to BSN Program allows current RNs who have already earned their associate’s degree from an accredited nursing program to take that next step to acquire the much desired bachelor’s degree by many healthcare employers. (Read the Feb. 23, 2021 RN to BSN Program announcement)

Out of the 14 RN to BSN Program graduates, 13 are DMC alumni of the RN Program, having earned their associate’s degrees and working in the field before furthering their training at the next level.

Prior to the new bachelor’s degree program, the Nurse Education Department offered an Associate in Applied Science in Registered Nursing degree, along with a Vocational Nurse Certificate, LVN/Paramedic to RN Transition Associate in Applied Science degree and an Associate in Arts in Nurse Education degree.

One of the BSN graduates is Michelle Westbrook, age 45, who currently serves as a school nurse for the Corpus Christi Independent School District (CCISD) at Ella Barnes Elementary. She said, “My BSN degree gives me advancement opportunities and a broader knowledge base. Many acute care hospitals and public health agencies will only hire BSN nurses.”

Del Mar College RN to BSN Degree Recipients_Noemi Padilla Harkless_Michelle Westbrook_Elizabeth Rovira

As a DMC alumna and first-generation college student in her family, Westbrook graduated as a RN from the Nurse Education Department with her associate’s degree in December 2004. She has worked for CCISD since 2008, along with working another job for Driscoll Children’s Hospital (DCH) between 2004 and 2021. She noted that she resigned last October from DCH “to ease the burden” of balancing her studies to complete the RN to BSN Program, working and maintaining family and home life that included three middle-school-aged boys who played sports.

Elizabeth Rovira, age 41, another DMC alumna who earned her associate’s degree in 2009 to become a RN, currently works at Driscoll Health Plan as a Utilization Management RN Case Manager. She also understands the impact her hard work and sacrifice will have.

Earning my BSN degree will allow me to advance my career into upper management when I‘m ready to transition to that type of role. And, if I ever want to move to a larger city, the degree will also enable me to eventually go to other companies that require a BSN or higher degree.

Elizabeth Rovira, RN, Del Mar College RN to BSN 2022 Graduate

Juggling the academic rigors to earn the RN to BSN degree, along with family and work, is the continuous challenge of the program, and Rovira experienced much the same hurdles that her classmate Westbrook faced.

“There were a few challenges, such as managing my time to fit the full-time nursing schedule into my already busy work schedules, and time with my husband and family was limited due to academic requirements and time spent on campus. But, in the end, they all supported me, and now I can spend plenty of time with all of them,” she noted.

And, Rovira has some words of advice now that she’s completed her BSN degree.

It’s never too late to go to school and reach your goals. Del Mar College has helped me reach two of my academic goals; and for that, I’m very grateful. Whatever you put into something is what you will get out of it. Push hard, work hard, and success will be there waiting for you.

Elizabeth Rovira, RN, Del Mar College RN to BSN Graduate
Del Mar College RN to BSN Graduates_Aug 19 Commencement Ceremony

During the pinning ceremony to encourage all 72 graduates to further their education, Dr. McWha said, “We need highly trained bedside nurses and managers of patient care; we need nurse researchers leading the way for new practices; we need nurse practitioners to help ease the shortage of healthcare providers, particularly in our community; and we need nurse educators to help train more people to enter this amazing profession.

She added, “To care for another human being and have someone place their trust in your care is truly a gift granted to select people who dare to challenge themselves to become a nurse.”

Del Mar College’s RN to BSN Class of 2022 graduates includes Keisha Cephus, Katrina Charba, Cecilia De La Cruz, Roxana Gonzalez, Jo Ann Jimenez, Julia Lopez, Ashley Martinez, Rachel Mendez, Christen Miller, Noemi Padilla-Harkless, Maria Rodriguez, Elizabeth Rovira, Dana Sanchez and Michelle Westbrook.


About Del Mar College

Del Mar College empowers students to achieve their dreams. We offer quality programs, individual attention, outstanding instruction through faculty with real-world experience and affordable costs to credit and noncredit students in Corpus Christi and the South Texas Coastal Bend area. Nationally recognized while locally focused, we’re ranked in the top two percent of community colleges in the country granting associate degrees to Hispanic students (Community College Week). Del Mar College focuses on offering our students programs that match current or emerging career opportunities. Whether students are interested in the fine arts, sciences, business, occupational or technical areas, students get the education they need for the future they want at Del Mar College.