Highlighting the success and progress of local nursing education, nursing program professor Ty Jones and Jamie Ludtke, who went through the nursing program here in Payson, share insights into the importance of the program to community healthcare. Jones runs the Payson Nursing Program offered through Eastern Arizona College, Payson (previously named GCC). Jones began his career as a nurse in Payson in 1995. In 2015, He transitioned from clinical nursing to focus on educating and mentoring nursing students through the college. A student in Jones’s first year of teaching, Ludtke, after graduating in 2016, was hired at Payson Regional Medical Center. After completing her two year RN program, she began her nursing career at BPMC. She was promoted to RN Clinical Educator promotion upon completion of her 4 year BSN (Bachelor of Nursing) through Grand Canyon University. Recently, Ludtke accepted another promotion and is now RN Clinical Manager, supervising the med/surg floor of BPMC. Like Jones, Ludtke has come full circle in her Payson nursing profession, with education, clinical profession, and now educating the future generations of nursing professionals. According to Jones, three other nurses have also followed that same path of receiving, practicing, and reinvesting in the future through educating others.

MHA Foundation provided financial assistance to allow Jamie to complete her schooling. Jones states “They are a very big supporter of education here, locally. I know I have many students that rely on MHA to get through the program. It is very difficult to work when you’re in the nursing program.” Jones admits the workload of nursing school requires the time commitment of about 40 hours a week, essentially a full-time job. Ludtke is thankful for the financial assistance provided to her by MHA, admitting that the financial assistance she received allowed her to concentrate on the rigorous program and her family, removing the additional stresses of full-time work from her schedule. “They paid for part of my tuition, and all of my books, which was a huge blessing.” Jones estimates nearly 20 nurses have completed the nursing program in Payson, have gone on to become currently practicing RNs in our community, and have the MHA Foundation to thank for financial assistance along that path. It is a number that only grows, as students currently in various stages of their schooling continue to benefit from MHA Foundation scholarships. Ludke says, “It is a great opportunity for people in our rural community to be able to go to nursing school here, locally.”

Thanks to the MHA Foundation, Jones shares, the program has been able to expand to hire two new local instructors. As a result, students can now enter the program without the waiting lists of past years. All four nursing education blocks can run simultaneously, giving the program an ongoing flow without interruption, and allowing students to enter and finish at a consistent pace. This has even had the interesting side effect of attracting potential students from larger programs in the valley, who still contend with waiting lists to enter nursing programs there.

While nationwide, many small communities demographically similar to Rim Country are struggling with significant healthcare shortages, Jones points out that pro-active programs such as the partnership between the college and MHA Foundation only strengthen and fortify our base of medical talent, and ensure an ongoing legacy of healthcare stability in our community. Programs exist for many allied healthcare professionals in addition to nursing, giving the industry further fortification, and opportunities at multiple levels.

Students can start the process of entering the medical field as a high schooler, progress to a nursing education, and after, make a respectable professional salary working locally, all without having to leave town. That is something that was only an option very recently. Ludtke admits, “When I moved here, 20 years ago, I took classes, but completing a degree in town wasn’t an option at that time.”

Jones sums it up. “There are very exciting things happening for the future thanks to MHA and our local community, through education.”

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