There is a nursing shortage. These are the local students filling that void.

Published 12:40 am Thursday, November 4, 2021

Andrea Alvarez has always wanted to become a nurse.

Her experiences through life, like seeing an older sister go through the process and having her own son diagnosed with low spectrum autism focused her passion to pediatrics.

“My journey was a little different,” the Winnie resident told Port Arthur Newsmedia this week. “I did have a son when I was very young in 2017 and immediately went to Lamar Port Arthur after graduation for the fall of 2018. I always wanted to be a nurse and knew the path, time and how hard it was going to be.”

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Alvarez is part of a recent class of approximately two-dozen vocational nursing students at Lamar State College Port Arthur that completed the program and passed the necessary certification.

Shirley MacNeill, chair of the Allied Health Department, said passing the licensure exam allows Lamar Port Arthur students to work in hospitals, long-term care facilities, health departments, physician’s offices and home health settings.

“They are very employable,” she said. “There is a shortage of nurses, vocational and registered nurses. This will help fill some of the need within our local community.”

Lamar Port Arthur

MacNeill said the LVN students who started in August 2020 began taking certification tests a little more than a year later.

They were on campus one day and had to evacuate due to Hurricane Laura, missing many days of activities and lectures that had to be made up.

Hurricane Delta forced more misses, followed by similar results when winter storm Uri struck in February.

“It really impacted all programs in the health care field,” MacNeill said. “Trying to obtain training has been really difficult due to the limitations. This group has overcome tremendous odds to become successful. We are beyond proud of them.”

According to MacNeill, the COVID pandemic made trying to obtain training difficult due to limitations.

Alvarez said her instructors showed they cared about each student’s story and background.

“They wanted to get to the end goal, but they knew they couldn’t make it easy on us,” she said.

Alvarez is one of many go-getters in the class. She worked as a student aide in high school and is now employed at a home health service for pediatric patients in Beaumont.

She will soon pursue registered nurse certification and hopes to work for Texas Children’s Hospital in the future.

She was not surprised to learn about the success of her classmates.

“Going through the program with the students that we did, I always knew I was surrounded with super intelligent people,” she said. “We were so zoned into to where we were.”


Katelynn Holmes, 20, was drawn to Lamar Port Arthur because her parents are nurses who got their starts at the college.

The Lumberton resident wants to continue her education on the way to becoming a certified registered nurse anesthetist.

He recent certification is allowing her to work for an urgent care facility as an LVN.

“That first semester was a little difficult because we had one day of classes then hurricane Laura came through and we evacuated and were out of school for two or three weeks,” she said. “The rest of the semester we were cramming but we got some really great time in the skills lab.”

She said her classmates did a great job adjusting to online instruction by connecting through Zoom.

They would stay after each session and talk about what was going on, who was confused and help each other out.

Holmes sees each student’s certification as a major accomplishment.

“Everyone who made it that far deserved it,” she said. “We all worked so hard, studied, put in the hours it takes to become a nurse, passed that test and did it right.”