Lyndsey Rozzi

Lyndsey Rozzi decided she would become a nurse before she turned 40. She earned her nursing degree from Ivy Tech in 18 months, six months shy of her 40th birthday. She now works at Logansport Memorial Hospital’s Cancer Care Center.

Logansport resident Lyndsey Rozzi had a job in the pharmaceutical field but always had a dream of being a nurse. About 10 years ago at age 38, she set a goal for herself to become a nurse by the time she was 40.

The Logansport High School graduate had an education degree from Indiana University, which she chose because the deadline to graduate was approaching and she had yet to take the required nursing classes needed to earn credits for graduation.

Rozzi eventually settled into the pharmaceutical field, and her love of learning about medicine and the body was rekindled.

With that goal of becoming a nurse in mind, she went to work. Eighteen months later and six months shy of her 40th birthday — in 2014 — she earned her degree.

Rozzi is now a medical oncology nurse at Logansport Memorial Hospital’s Cancer Care Center (1025 Michigan Ave.), and credits Ivy Tech with helping her achieve her goal.

Recent grants and initiatives to help solve the nursing shortage in Indiana have helped Ivy Tech become one of the leading education systems in the field.

She did that

“I don’t know how I did it,” Rozzi said. She was a wife with four children. A major part of her journey at the beginning was learning to give up control.

You’ll figure it out, she told her family. There’s peanut butter in the cabinet. You’re not going to starve. The beds aren’t made and that’s ok.

“But I also think that was good for my kids to see me sitting there with piles of books and studying, getting up and going to class and doing all this stuff,” she said. “I’d like to think they were like ‘yeah, that was cool. She did that.’”

Rozzi studied nursing at the Ivy Tech Kokomo campus. She recalled walking into her first classroom and seeing her fellow students, thinking “these are just kids.”

But she wasn’t the only adult. She found a niche of students to study and endure with.

It was hard work, she remembered. Her pharmaceutical background helped her in her courses and she was also able to help her fellow students.

There was a professor everyone was terrified of. She would ask students questions and if they didn’t have the answer, she would ask them why they weren’t prepared and tell them because of their lack of preparation their patient just dead.

Rozzi ended up in her class. It was one of the best experiences she had.

“I absolutely loved her because she had very high expectations,” she said. “Extremely high expectations. She taught me to think 10 steps ahead and that’s so important in nursing.”

Rozzi was nervous when she walked onto her first inpatient floor but she never felt like she had was unprepared.

“I didn’t walk in there like ‘I graduated yesterday and I got this.’ But I walked in like ‘okay. I would know what to do in this situation’,” she said. “I just felt like we were really well prepared.”

Ivy Tech Logansport

Recent grants from Indiana University Health and the Community Health Network have allowed Ivy Tech to expand their nursing programs across the state.

Ivy Tech Logansport (1 Ivy Tech Drive) is one such location to benefit from the grants. The campus’s part-time nursing program is now a full-time program that operates during the day. They will also add more faculty, increase the number of students enrolled and bring in new technology.

The college’s goal was to increase admission of nursing students by 600 across Indiana. Kelly Williams, dean of the School of Nursing in the Kokomo service area, said that Ivy Tech graduates the most nurses with associate degrees in the nation. Ninety percent of nurses graduating from Ivy Tech remain in Indiana.

Williams said the program is fast paced and requires a large commitment. Students practice skills in a lab on mannequins and each other. They begin gaining hospital experience in their first semester.

“That’s what students really like,” she said. “They are not in general education courses. They are starting out with nursing courses first semester.”

Laura Hapner, interim vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, said that Ivy Tech faculty is highly qualified and brings lots of experience into the classroom, providing hands on experiences for students to learn.

“Their students are involved in everything nursing right from the start,” she said. “(Our faculty) all have their own nursing experience as well so that puts them in a position not only to be able to help those students in the classroom but also in the field with networking and getting connected to our partners.”

Nursing shortage

Rozzi loves working at the Cancer Care Center. People ask her how she can handle working there but it’s not all misery. The staff keeps each other uplifted and in turn they are able to uplift their patients.“I am (a patient’s) first contact,” she said. “I will get them from the waiting room. They know they have a cancer diagnosis but they know nothing else. It is an incredible responsibility for me, regardless of how I feel, the type of day I am having, it is my responsibility to greet them with a smile, to put my hand on their back and say ‘you are going to be ok. We are in this together.’ Everyone in this office is a team. We are working with you to get you through this. It’s a responsibility. It’s a responsibility to return their phone calls when they aren’t feeling well or when they have a question. You can’t brush those things off. I feel like it is a very big responsibility but it’s also a privilege to be in that situation, to make somebody’s day better.”

During her professional career Rozzi has mentored many university students and can see a difference between them and those who study at Ivy Tech.

“It’s not the same,” she said. “They are a lot more focused on writing a paper, doing whatever it is they have to do. They are a lot more information focused where I feel like (Ivy Tech) was practical focused. I feel like we got so much hands on experience.”

She has a plan for those who want to become a nurse: Earn a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) in high school, work in a nursing home and earn a nursing degree from Ivy Tech.

Rozzi estimates a student will be 20 or 21 when they graduate. Work a year as a nurse and then begin taking ASN (Associate of Science in Nursing) to BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) transfer classes. Earn a BSN by the age of 24 with financial help from the hospital a student is employed at. A nurse should then be financially independent and ready to buy a house. Or they could start work to become a nurse practitioner.

The Indiana Hospital Association reports that the state averages 4,000 nursing job openings per year. Indiana would need to graduate 1,300 new nurses a year through 2030 to meet Indiana’s health care needs, they estimated.

Rozzi doesn’t have an answer to recruiting more nurses and she is concerned that Indiana will lower the standards to be one.

“You can’t skimp on healthcare,” she said. “You wouldn’t want a nurse who just bought their degree online or never touched a patient. You want a nurse with experience and who has been trained well.”

It’s a difficult course of study and career, she said. She doesn’t know if potential nurses are scared away by the demands of the profession or if it’s a financial reason.

“It is a hard field. It is a lot of studying,” she said. “Don’t get discouraged because it’s hard. Hard things are good. Nothing worthwhile is easy. Remember you have people’s health in your control. (Nursing is) serious. It’s important and it’s worthwhile.”

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