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Soon-to-be graduates get ready for the front lines of healthcare

With just a few more weeks until graduation, Robeson Community College’s health science students have been getting prepared for life on the front lines as medical providers. Many already have jobs lined up and are excited about what the future holds. They know how important their roles will be in helping to save lives with the education they have received and the knowledge they have gained through clinicals and lectures.

One major event that has helped tie all their training together was Trauma Rodeo, an interdisciplinary practice exercise for health students in Emergency Medical Services, Radiography, Respiratory Therapy, and Nursing. The event included many first responders from various agencies in the region, emergency vehicles, law enforcement officers, as well as several helicopters that landed on campus to make the event feel as close to real life as possible. 

Cody Edwards

Cody Edwards stands in the Respiratory Therapy lab at Robeson Community College, a place where he has spent many hours in during his classes over the last two years.

“It was awesome,” said Cody Edwards, a respiratory therapy student at RCC, about Trauma Rodeo. “Getting to take a lead instead of being a student who stands back was really good… it was nice to get to work beside the nursing students, it was kind of cool.”

Edwards says that during the event he helped to incubate patients and had an opportunity to “call out things that I thought we needed to do.”

It was also a chance to learn about other things.

“Some of the scenarios were things that I haven’t seen before, but now I will know what I can do,” Edwards said. “It helped to build my confidence.”

Edwards decided to go into Respiratory Therapy after COVID hit. Prior to enrolling he worked at Lowes. At the age of 24, he will begin working at UNC Southeastern as a respiratory therapist, a job he just recently accepted.

“I’m glad I took this step, it has opened up more opportunities,” Edwards said. “It is scary and hard at first, but you make a lot of friends along the way and thanks to a lot of prayers and my support system, I’m set to graduate in May.”

“The teachers here are good and they help you along the way,” Edwards stated. “The staff is good at working with you on financial aid and helping you get your education.” 

After graduation and gaining some work experience in the medical field, Edwards hopes to obtain his bachelor’s degree and work his way up in management, eventually being in a position to oversee various aspects of the healthcare system.

Janea Hicks (left) gives emergency medical attention to a patient during a mock scenario in a capstone course for EMS at Robeson Community College.

Janea Hicks

For Janea Hicks, the opportunity to take part in Trauma Rodeo was a chance to take what she learned in her paramedic classes and apply it in real-time.

“You definitely get nervous,” Hicks said in a recent interview. “It gives us that exposure and it helps to alleviate some of the nerves. Practice always makes perfect, so we are out here practicing as we play.”

For EMS students like Hicks, who will be the first to respond to emergency situations, Trauma Rodeo was a chance to gain hands-on training and valuable experience. 

“I felt proud at the end of it,” Hicks stated. “I know I had great teachers and that I’ve studied hard, and I’m doing everything that I’m supposed to do.  It’s nice to know that we are actually performing and doing what we’re supposed to do, and going to where we are supposed to go…”

“EMS in general, even outside of school, can be stressful,” Hicks said. “Trauma Rodeo gives a definite confidence boost; it gives a heads up of what’s in our future.”

Hicks became an EMT while serving in the US Army National Guard. It’s part of what brought her to North Carolina. She decided to attend Robeson Community College to complete her associate degree in Emergency Medical Sciences.

“I love Robeson Community College and I’m super happy that I ended up here,” said Hicks. “I have learned a lot… The staff has such diverse backgrounds, so I feel like no matter who I go to or who my teacher is that day, I’m learning something new and getting different perspectives, and I enjoy that the most about the program.”

Upon graduating this May from RCC, Hicks plans on entering the workforce, becoming a paramedic, and progressing through the EMS field. With a nationwide shortage of EMTs and paramedics, Hicks will have many job opportunities to choose from.

Associate Degree Nursing student Lekeya Grissett (right) served as one of the charge nurses during the 2023 Trauma Rodeo, taking reports from first responders to relay to the staff in the emergency room.

Lekeya Grissett
Lekeya Grissett took a similar path as Hicks, but her intentions were always to eventually become a nurse. Her resume probably looks something like this: EMT. Paramedic. LPN. Soon-to-be RN.

“I started my career here at RCC,” Grissett said. “I graduated in 2019. I came back to do the LPN program and I graduated in 2021. This is my third time here and I am graduating this year with my ADN.”

With one associate degree in EMS already under her belt, and with her LPN license, her training has come full circle as she took part in her second Trauma Rodeo experience at RCC.

“It’s a great experience because everyone gets to learn, where there is not as much pressure,” Grissett said. “Trauma Rodeo is an advantage for the student. You get to have a learning experience without harming the patient. You get to collaborate with interdisciplinary teams, with the attendees and the residents, radiology students, paramedic students and you get to see everyone’s part in patient care.”

During her first experience, Grissett says she was the first on the scene, bringing patients to the hospital and giving the report to the nurses, but this time around she served as the charge nurse, getting the reports from the paramedics as they brought patients to the emergency room.

“The first time I was out in the field doing the emergent part, fixing the issue and bringing the patient to the emergency department,” said Grissett. “I was actually in the ED this time and it was kind of different.”

With all her education, training, and experience, Grissett says she has had many job opportunities, first starting at Robeson County EMS as a paramedic and now at UNC Southeastern as a nurse in a resource pool, meaning she gets floated to various departments in the hospital. She has worked as a floor nurse for 4S/4N and in med-surge. She just recently accepted a position at UNC Southeastern as a nurse in the ER, which she will begin upon graduating this May.

“I eventually want to become a flight nurse,” Grissett said. “You have to have three years of experience in critical care, then you can transition over.”

Grissett says, “The path I chose built my experience and just made me a stronger nurse. This is a great school. Robeson Community College will get you prepared and give you a great foundation for when you become a nurse.”

Nichole Ivey

Nichole Ivey is no stranger to healthcare, she has over 16 years of experience having worked previously as a speech therapist assistant.

“I wanted to switch careers but I wanted to stay in the medical profession,” said Ivey, who is a radiography student at RCC. “X-ray was really interesting to me, it’s patient care along with the trauma situations, and I just found it really fascinating.”

During Trauma Rodeo, Ivey took part in a rapid response scenario that required critical thought and quick action.

“We were giving a patient contrast,” Ivey said. “The contrast was for the x-rays they were going to take to better diagnose the problem. The patient became short of breath and started getting hives and going into anaphylactic shock. We had to call in the Rapid Response Team, which included the paramedics and the nurse resident.”

Radiography Student Nichole Ivey performs x-rays during the Trauma Rodeo event at Robeson Community College.

“You had to think fast and communicate,” Ivey said, who was the designated leader of the scenario. “Having a clear leader in each scenario made things go smoother… it was very interesting and fun in seeing how each scenario was different… it was a really good experience.”

In addition to clinicals and the opportunity to participate in trauma rodeo, working as a student tech at Scotland Health in Laurinburg has given Ivey a glimpse into what her future will hold. Upon graduation from the program in May, she will begin two positions at UNC Southeastern as a PRN, which means “Pro Re Nata” or as necessary, doing x-rays for hospital patients.

“With a PRN, you let the hospital know when you can work and you can do different shifts like three 12-hour days, you can work the night shift or you can just work on the weekend, so it’s more flexible and the flexibility is another reason I decided to change from speech to x-ray,” Ivey said. “I plan on doing the CT certification program in July, so I needed the flexibility.”

Ivey is thankful she made the choice to attend Robeson Community College and go in a new direction.

“RCC is known for having great health programs, and RCC radiography students are known for being really good at what they do,” Ivey said. “Out in the field and in the hospitals, I feel like Robeson Community College just has a good name. You are going to have to work really hard, but it’s well worth it for the name recognition that comes along with it.”





Photos from the Trauma Rodeo event held April 5, 2023.

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