Cross Shoulders Lots of Responsibility
Story and Photo by John Rountree, Photography Instructor
It is the growth industry of the future, and the future is here now. Healthcare in America is now one of the leading sectors of our economy. The demands from the baby boomer generation, just now beginning to retire, are going to insure that jobs in this industry will continue to be in high demand. To meet that demand, McDowell Technical Community College has named a new Dean to oversee the Health Sciences Department. Penny Cross assumed this leadership role last July.
As Dean of Health Sciences she directs the Practical Nursing Program (LPN) and supervises the following health science programs: Health Information Technology, Nursing Assistant, Phlebotomy, and a new program scheduled to begin in the Fall of 2008, Dialysis Technology. Ms. Cross also serves on the operations committee of two programs in the Foothills Consortium: Associate Degree Nursing (RN) and Surgical Technology.
McDowell Tech is part of the Foothills Nursing Consortium and the Foothills Surgical Technology Consortium. Both Foothills programs include McDowell, Isothermal and Cleveland Community Colleges. Working together, the three schools are better able to utilize resources and off-site teaching centers like hospitals, nursing homes and similar clinical facilities. The Registered Nursing Program, as well as the Surgical Technology Program is offered through these consortiums.
Nursing programs have consistently been some of the most popular classes offered at MTCC. Each year there is a longer list of potential students than there are available positions. Nursing is one of the few programs at the college for which there is limited and competitive enrollment. Selection is based on a point system that includes testing of potential applicants. For the Practical Nursing Program, for example, there were 200 applicants for the class which entered in the fall of 2007. From that group, 75 sat for the entrance exam and 40 students were admitted to the program.
The measure of a successful program in Nursing is the completion rate of graduates on the National Council Licensure exam. Each student who completes a nursing degree must sit for this exam, which measures his or her competence to perform in the field. Cross proudly points out that the class of 2007 Practical Nursing (LPN) graduates achieved a 97% pass rate on the NCLEX exams!
Nursing is a critical and demanding profession. Although it requires a significant commitment of time and energy to become a nurse and the stress levels for students and employed nurses can be high, the rewards can also be high, both financially and personally. Due to an ever-growing demand from an aging population, healthcare, in general, and nursing, specifically, are expected to continue as high-growth professions.
Ms. Cross began her career at MTCC in 1991 as a Nursing Assistant instructor and worked in the Practical Nurse program prior to being promoted to Director in 2002. Her appointment as Dean of Health Sciences became effective in July, 2007.
Cross holds a Masters degree in Nursing Education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Care Administration. Prior to joining the faculty at MTCC, she worked as a Registered Nurse at McDowell Hospital in Marion and Mission Hospital in Asheville.
Penny has lived in Marion most of her life. She and her husband, Chip, have two teen-aged children. They like to camp and enjoy being outdoors. But for day-to-day stress relief, Penny likes to run. She has completed one marathon and a half-marathon. The Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston is her favorite 10K run. She and Chip have been running this race for the past 20 years.
With a big reserve of energy and enthusiasm, the future of Health Sciences programs at McDowell Technical Community College will be shaped by Penny Cross. She promises to continue the standard of excellence already established at MTCC, while working to expand program offerings.
With Penny at the helm, MTCC is sure to remain at the forefront in preparing all Health Science students for better careers, today and tomorrow.