Hillside Health Center Helps Nursing Students Earn Their Stripes


Every year Hillside Health Center allows Mendocino College nursing students to rotate through its Care for Her department during their spring semester, so the students can learn more about maternal and child health. This year, Mendocino College nursing instructor Nora Danning was so pleased with the Care for Her experience that she wrote a letter applauding Care for Her’s approach, and especially thanking certified nurse midwife Cayo Alba, whose name came up over and over when students returned from their rotation insisting they were going to specialize in obstetrics based on Alba’s influence.

Hillside Health Center welcomes each student in the nursing cohort for one day (on a Tuesday). Of the 17 nursing students in this year’s graduating class, five are men—an unusually high number, according to Danning.

“While it’s unlikely the male nurses will go into obstetrics, they may end up in the ER and be required to help deliver a baby. I so appreciate Care for Her’s willingness to provide such a good experience,” she said.

Care for Her manager Jill Damian explained how they share the Care for Her approach with nursing students. “I spend about 20-30 minutes providing a tour and giving students an overview of Care for Her and the whole health center.

“I always explain that our healthcare community is small; and when they finish nursing school, I hope they will have some understanding of how our organization fits in.” 

After Damian’s introduction, students spend the rest of the day with nurses and doctors, primarily shadowing the certified nurse midwives. Nursing students also meet those same nurse midwives and OB/GYNs during their obstetrical rotation at Ukiah Valley Medical Center.

Damian said, “It’s fun when they’ve attended a delivery with one of our providers at the hospital and then get to spend time with her in the clinic.”

Danning noted that finding institutions willing to provide clinical rotations for nursing students is getting increasingly difficult, and shared her appreciation that Hillside Health Center continues to help new nurses gain the experience they need.

“Care for Her really went above and beyond to provide a quality experience,” she said. She noted that Alba was a standout among standouts, helping students feel like part of the healthcare team, allowing them to interact and observe prenatal care, post-partum care, and working with patients as they dealt with other health issues like paps and contraception.

“Students just glowed when they got back. ‘I’m going into OB!’  they kept saying,” Danning said.

Mendocino College currently offers both a 2-year Registered Nursing Program and an LVN to RN Bridge Program. Completing the program leads to eligibility for licensure as a registered nurse (RN). Upon completion, the graduate will receive an Associate Degree in Nursing and will be eligible to sit for the California State Board of Registered Nursing licensing exam.

Their Associate Degree program is a 2-year full-time program that offers a series of courses that combine academic classes on campus, skills practice in the nursing skills laboratory, and patient care experience in various hospitals and facilities primarily in the Lake-Mendocino area.

Many local health centers and hospitals hire nurses who complete the Mendocino College nursing programs, including Hillside Health Center’s Nursing Director Jasmin Pintane and Hillside’s Diabetes Educator Veronica Clow.

Danning explained that not everyone has the gift of being a good teacher, but that many of the Care for Her midwives are excellent teachers. “They were willing and able to take the time to share what it means to be a nurse-midwife, so the nursing students really understood,” she said.

Damian said she was impressed with the nursing students who came recently.  “We found this year’s class to be really fabulous. They were prepared and asked really great questions,” she said.

For more information about Care for Her, call (707) 468-1010 or visit careforher.org. For more information about the Mendocino College Nursing Program, call (707) 468-3099 or visit mendocino.edu/department/nursing.

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