The bridge from paramedic to RN: Cierra Locklear’s journey
You never know where one class will lead you or the doors that it may open. For Pembroke native Cierra Locklear, one class has forever helped chart her path and career in healthcare.
Cierra started her college career at Robeson Community College while in high school through Career and College Promises classes. She says that is when she discovered her love for emergency medical science and public safety.
“I took EMT 1 and then EMT 2 at the Career Center,” Cierra told as she thought about her high school career.
After taking the tests and passing the State Board exams, Cierra graduated from high school in 2015 as an EMT Basic and immediately began working in the field. During that time, Cierra enrolled in the EMS program at Robeson Community College. She chose to pursue the 2-year transfer AAS-to-BS degree in EMS.
“I loved RCC, and I loved going to the classes there. It was a great experience. I learned something new every day,” said Cierra. “Attending RCC, and taking that first EMT class in high school, ultimately changed my life.”
Cierra praises her instructors at RCC and says that they made the difference by taking her under their wings and guiding her through the EMS program.
“They made the program fun and interesting with real-life scenarios where you had to do search and rescue efforts and perform medical procedures on the patient… I learned so much. I cannot say enough good things about them or the program.”
After earning her associate of applied science in EMS in 2017, Cierra transferred to Western Carolina University. She entered the university with 60 transferrable credits and completed a bachelor’s of science degree in 2020.
“Living on campus was a different experience. I got to meet a lot of new people and I really enjoyed my time in Cullowhee,” said Cierra. “Attending RCC was a big stepping stone for me, but it prepared me to go off to college.”
She added, “I needed the extra push to go to a 4-year college and I received that at RCC.”
Cierra believes that it’s always good to have your education to go with your experience, and now she has both, having worked as a volunteer with several rescue squads and fire departments since she was just 16 years old, saving lives and making a difference in her community, as well as the several years of experience she has obtained working as an EMT.
“I love helping people,” Cierra added. “All the volunteering that I did when I was young helped me get used to going on 911 calls.”
Now at the age of 24, Cierra is employed full-time as a certified paramedic in Robeson County transporting patients and assisting on 911 emergency phone calls as needed for the county.
Coming full circle, Cierra now finds herself back at the place where it all started and will be attending RCC again this fall to obtain another credential – a nursing degree – through the Paramedic to RN bridge program that was established in 2019. This program is an advanced placement option for certified paramedics to obtain an associate’s degree in nursing. Upon completion of the program, graduates are eligible to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).
“I have always wanted to be a nurse,” said Cierra. “I’m so excited about coming back.”
Cierra is thankful for the path that she has taken because she already has gained so much knowledge in the health profession, which she hopes will be an asset to her as she goes into the nursing program.
“EMS is a forever-changing career,” said Cierra. “Coming back to do the bridge program to get my RN is another stepping stone… I want to see where this will take me.”
After completing the bridge program, Cierra says that she may continue her education so that she can eventually obtain her goal of becoming a nurse practitioner. She is also considering becoming a traveling nurse.
“I wouldn’t mind traveling and seeing the world,” said Cierra. “Becoming a travel nurse would allow me to do that, but we will see what the future holds.”
If you would like more information on the EMS programs available, including the Paramedic to RN Bridge program, please contact Erica Parks at (910) 272-3406, email@example.com, or Thomas Byrd at (910) 272-3408, firstname.lastname@example.org. Fall 2021 classes at Robeson Community College begin August 16.