A new graduate among the ranks

We shared Tisha Dugger’s story several months ago when she was enrolled in the LPN program at South College. We caught up with Tisha recently to see what has changed since she GRADUATED from the program!

She was able to complete the program in 11 months and graduated during a pinning ceremony held on Dec. 16, 2022, at the South College Parkside campus.

Immediately after graduation, she became a GPN – or graduate practical nurse – at Hillcrest’s West Hills community, with new job duties as an LPN, such as the ability to give medicine to residents. She passed the LPN certification exam, the NCLEX-PN, in March 2023 and now has the title of LPN.

Tisha joined Hillcrest as a housekeeper in 2019 and then pursued nursing assistant certification as a CNA. When she learned about the opportunity to continue her education through a partnership with South College, she took it, saying, “It was a great opportunity.” The partnership includes a grant from South College, and Hillcrest Healthcare covers the remaining tuition and fees for employees who have worked with the organization for six months or longer.

Tisha says the process for starting the program was easy. It took her about a day to gather all the needed information, fill out paperwork with Hillcrest Healthcare and go through the enrollment process at South College.   

Bonnie Lepley, director of nursing at West Hills, joins so many who celebrate with Tisha on this great achievement, saying, “Tisha has a great attitude and was successful in completing the LPN program while working. She asks great questions that are instrumental to her development.”

Accomplishments celebrated

On April 21, 2023, Hillcrest celebrated Tisha’s achievement with a community gathering and the presentation of a personalized engraved stethoscope. Attendees enjoyed snacks and cupcakes outside on the grounds of the West Hills campus by the gazebo on a beautiful spring day. She is the first graduate of the Hillcrest Healthcare and South College educational partnership.

Looking ahead

Tisha already looking ahead. “I would like to continue my education, but I would like to take a break from school for at least a year and gain experience as an LPN. I had a whole year away from my kids and husband, working full time and going to school four nights a week and having clinicals on the weekend – it’s time consuming.”

Bonnie also is excited about Tisha’s future, saying, “I look forward to Tisha growing in her career and to help guide her along the way.”   

When asked about her favorite thing about her job, she doesn’t hesitate. “The residents – I love them – they are my favorite part. Also, I’ve gone up the ranks at West Hills, so I know almost everyone in that building and that is so nice as well.”

She shares that she’s had an abundance of encouragement along the way. “Everyone here tells me I shouldn’t stop – to keep going with my education. I had an instructor at South College, Melanie Hanna, who was so encouraging and helpful and taught me ways to study for big tests. The program was a lot of work but sure worth it in the end! I’m so grateful to Hillcrest.”

In addition to education partnerships, Hillcrest Healthcare offers industry-leading benefits, immersive onboarding, professional development opportunities, employee recognition and three distinct communities where associates can thrive. Visit our careers page to learn more.