April Tinto has always gone above and beyond to care for others. Her compassionate and empathetic nature has served her well in caring for her son and her sister and as a certified nursing assistant at a nursing home in Cornwall.
On Thursday, December 15, Tinto took her love for helping people a step further when she graduated from the Penn State Berks Practical Nursing program as a practical nurse. She is one of seven graduates who will be eligible to test for the National Council Licensure Examination – Practical Nurse.
Tinto’s reasons for wanting to become a practical nurse (PN) are personal. When she was two years old, she was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a form of cancer that affects the sensitive lining (retina) of the eye. Additionally, her son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 13 years old, and her sister has hydrocephalus, a build-up of fluid in the ventricles of the brain. Wanting to know how to make informed medical decisions for her family was a driving force in her decision to become a PN.
After obtaining her certified nurse assistant license in March 2019, she worked through the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic in a unit designated for nursing home residents who tested positive. “It was the scariest time of my life. I hope to never see anything like it again,” Tinto said.
It was during this time that she saw firsthand how vital nurses’ roles are and the challenges they face. But that did not sway her determination.
Tinto knew she wanted to wait for her son to graduate from high school before she began studying for her practical nursing license, but she didn’t know what program would also allow her to continue working at the nursing home.
Once during a night shift, she talked with a coworker about her desire to earn her PN certification and how she had not found a program that fit her schedule. “She was one of the people that convinced me I could do this,” Tinto said.
After a Google search, Tinto and her coworker found the Penn State Berks Practical Nursing Program was a good fit. “I do feel lucky that I found Penn State Berks program because it is more flexible than other programs,” she said.
The Practical Nursing program is an 18-month-long, full-time program that offers evening and weekend curricula to prepare students with essential nursing knowledge and practices necessary to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses.
Tinto credited having clinical experience embedded in the curriculum as helpful in connecting the information she was learning in class to the hands-on experience.
“Other programs tend to do all their classes first and then end the program with the clinicals. But then you’re not associating the term with what’s happening,” Tinto said. “Having clinicals throughout the whole program is probably the best thing that Penn State Berks does.”
Additionally, Tinto said that she enjoyed that her professors served as valuable resources and could share what they learned from their personal experiences. “We really do have teachers who are specialists in their fields,” she added.
Along with earning her PN certification, Tinto earned the Continuing Education award, which is presented to the nursing student who embodies the spirit, commitment, and dedication to higher education.
Following graduation on Thursday, she will test for her practical nursing license, and after passing, she will work as a full-time LPN for the same nursing home she’s been with for the last three years. Despite a demanding 18 months, Tinto knows how important it is to persevere through the tough times.
“It’s not an easy thing, but you can do it. Just because you’re older and your kids are grown doesn’t mean you have to settle.”