GCC's pinning ceremony

Graduate Ashley Bayer, right, receives a hug from another graduate during GCC's associate of science degree in registered nursing pinning ceremony, which took place at the Lanterman Auditorium in La Canada on Saturday, June 15, 2013. (Cheryl A. Guerrero / Glendale News Press / June 15, 2013)

Graduates of Glendale Community College’s nursing program were looking forward to bright futures in the high-demand career field during a traditional “pinning” ceremony on Saturday at the Lanterman Auditorium in La Cañada Flintridge.

For the 35 graduates, the pins signify successful completion of two years of training to become registered nurses.

PHOTOS: GCC's nursing department holds pinning ceremony

Many who earn their certificates at GCC go on to work in the Glendale area, nursing program director Emelyn Judge said.

This year’s crop will also find themselves increasingly in demand as provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act begin to take effect next year.

Officials predict the nation’s health care overhaul will result in 1.7 million currently uninsured Los Angeles County residents receiving health insurance — and thus an explosion in the number of patients seeking preventive care.

The legislation “will definitely have an impact on the need for more skilled workers across the board, including nurses,” said Don Nakamoto, executive director of the Verdugo Workforce Investment Board and its Verdugo Jobs Center. “Over the long-term, the employment outlook for nurses is pretty strong.”

But the path from school to work — or even just to school — isn’t a cakewalk.

GCC’s nursing program receives 200 to 300 applicants each semester but can only accept 40, Judge said.

For more than a decade, a national shortage of nurses left the health care industry craving RNs. But jobs became scarce during the recession as hospitals downsized and sought out experienced nurses over recent grads, who require up to 16 weeks of in-hospital training before they can touch a patient.

To incentivize new hires, the Verdugo Jobs Center has been subsidizing half the salaries of nurses-in-training at Glendale Memorial, Glendale Adventist, Verdugo Hills and Providence St. Joseph’s hospitals, Nakamoto said.

But because the anticipated wave of newly insured patients will be seeking preventive care outside of hospitals, Judge said she has encouraged members of the class of 2013 to broaden their job searches to include community health clinics.

Rafael Begluyan, one of seven men to complete GCC’s nursing program this year, said he decided to enter the field after receiving excellent care from a male nurse at an area clinic.

“I was reluctant [to go to the clinic] because I didn’t think I would get the care I needed,” said Begluyan, 31. “But seeing how he helped me made me want to help other people in the same way.”

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