Vanessa Elise Blackmon, who graduated on May 2 with an Associate of Science degree in Nursing from Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC), has also completed a two-year scholar’s certificate program at the Blue Ridge Area Health Education Center.

Blackmon attended classes at GNTC’s Walker County Campus in Rock Spring, resides in Dalton and is employed as a Nurse Tech II in the Emergency Trauma Center at Atrium Health Floyd in Rome, where she has been employed since May 2023. She was among 18 students recognized last month by the Blue Ridge Area Health Education Center (AHEC) for completing the prestigious program.

“My desire to become a nurse stems from my love of caring for others,” Blackmon said. “I want to help those who need it most and strive to make a positive difference in their lives. I want to bring hope to the weak and be a source of strength.”

Blackmon said after she completes the Nurse Residency Program for new nurses at Atrium Health Floyd, she will apply to work in the Emergency Trauma Center. Her passion is providing emergency care for patients.

Blackmon is drawn to serving rural communities that may have increased barriers to healthcare access, she said.

Blackmon accepted the scholarship during her first semester of GNTC’s four-semester Nursing program and has been actively involved in meeting all of her degree requirements, as well as her learning assignments for the Blue Ridge AHEC Scholarship, said Deseri Wooten, Nursing Simulation Lab coordinator at GNTC.

Blackmon explained that participating in the AHEC Scholar program helped her to gain a deeper understanding of her role as a nurse and how her career can impact the community. She has earned certifications in Mental Health First Aid and Telemedicine Presenter and plans in the future to pursue certification in Trauma Nursing.

“Blue Ridge AHEC helped me make a connection between the classroom and the real world,” Blackmon said. “I learned more about the need for healthcare and access limitations in northwest Georgia.”

Blue Ridge AHEC provided the opportunity to be involved in discussions about local social detriments to health and to attend local events, such as health fairs for men and women in Dalton, Blackmon said.

Vanessa Elise Blackmon received her associate degree at the May 2 graduation ceremony. (Contributed by GNTC)

“Vanessa has always shown a tenacity to learn and the required grit to be a Registered Nurse since her first semester in our program,” Wooten said. “Vanessa works hard, is resolved to learn and assists her peers willingly. She demonstrates resilience, kindness and overall helpfulness often.”

“Vanessa is a blessing to her clients during clinical learning by greeting them with a welcoming spirit, easy smile and a sincere desire to help relieve unnecessary suffering,” Wooten said, adding that she is proud of her student’s accomplishments. “I hope that Vanessa will be my nurse one day.”

The Georgia AHEC Program is a multidisciplinary certificate program providing selected health professions students opportunities for experience in rural and underserved communities, hands-on training, and networking with other students and professionals, said Mandy Hunter, assistant director at Blue Ridge AHEC. The two-year program consists of 80 hours of classroom and online instruction and 40 hours of hands-on clinical training.  

Blue Ridge AHEC, a non-profit regional health education center based in Rome, works to increase the supply, distribution and education of health professionals in northwest Georgia by recruiting, training and retaining quality health professionals in the region, Hunter said. Blue Ridge AHEC is part of the Georgia Statewide AHEC Network.

Core topics covered in the AHEC Scholars Program curriculum are behavioral health integration, cultural competency, current and emerging health issues, interprofessional education, practice transformation, social determinants of health and telehealth certification, Hunter said.

“Students who complete the program will be nationally-recognized,” Hunter said. “They earned their certificates, and we are very proud of them.”

Students are eligible to apply for the program if they are able to commit to the two-year term, have a minimum overall GPA of 2.5 and are currently enrolled in selected Georgia health professions degree programs with a duration of two years or longer.

The Associate Degree Nursing program at GNTC prepares students to apply the behaviors, knowledge and skills required of a self-directed, critical thinking, beginning nurse generalist. Graduates of the program will be able to provide and manage care and function as members of the Nursing profession.

Georgia Northwestern Technical College provides quality workforce education to the citizens of northwest Georgia. Students have the opportunity to earn an associate degree, diploma or a certificate in aviation, business, health, industrial or public service career paths.

This past year, 11,601 people benefited from GNTC’s credit and noncredit programs. GNTC has an annual credit enrollment of 8,071 students and an additional enrollment of 3,530 people through adult education, continuing education, business and industry training and Georgia Quick Start. For more information about GNTC, visit us at GNTC is a unit of the Technical College System of Georgia and an Equal Opportunity Institution.

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