Two days after finding out she was pregnant, newlywed Deanna Pavil got another big surprise — an acceptance letter to the nursing program hosted at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Kuskokwim Campus in Bethel.
At first, the thought of juggling pregnancy and a newborn baby with a challenging academic program seemed overwhelming. That’s when Pavil called her dad. Charles and Sharon Rodgers had always encouraged their daughter to follow her dreams.
“My dad gave me the push that I needed,” said Pavil, who grew up in Bethel. “He knew this was something I wanted to do, so he wouldn’t let me get off the phone until I said, ‘OK, I can do this.’ I couldn’t have gotten through the nursing program without the help and support of my mom and dad.”
Pavil’s family traveled to Anchorage when she was a high school junior when her grandmother needed open-heart surgery. The hospital staff’s caring actions inspired Pavil to dream of a career in health care. After graduating from Bethel Regional High School, she worked for four years in medical records at Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Regional Hospital. It wasn’t until Pavil started taking classes to become a certified nurse aide that she discovered her calling to be a nurse.
“I enjoyed working in medical records, but knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” said Pavil, who graduated with an associate of applied science degree in nursing in December 2016. “I wanted to do more to help people and make a difference in their lives. The same week I quit my job, I got a phone call about the CNA class.”
Bethel’s certified nursing assistant program is made possible by a community partnership between UAF’s Kuskokwim Campus, the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. and Yuut Elitnaurviat, a regional vocational training center. Since 2013, the organizations have worked together to train local residents to fill needed certified nurse aide positions at the YKHC Elder Home. For many students like Pavil, Bethel’s CNA program is a stepping stone to earning an associate of applied science degree in nursing. It’s also a way for them to pursue a degree in health care without having to move away from home.
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