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Brothers helping others

Posted: Tuesday, Apr 23, 2024

North Idaho College’s nursing program is the top nursing program in Idaho.

Of Idaho’s 13 nursing schools, NIC’s ranks No. 1 in pass rates on the first attempt on the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) licensure examination. Out of more than 1,700 programs across the country, NIC is in the top 100, coming in at No. 61. Its three-year average NCLEX-RN passing rate is 96.62%, which any student knows is a solid “A” grade, reflective of hard work and determined effort.

“Every time I walked into the licensed practical nursing classroom at NIC, I remember feeling honored to be able to take this awesome nursing program,” said Daniel Guerrero, who graduated from the practical nursing program in July 2023. His older brother, Deren Guerrero, completed NIC’s practical nursing program, then returned to enroll in the practical nursing to registered nursing tract and graduated as a registered nurse in December 2023.

“It was so cool to be able to take the LPN program while my brother was taking the RN program at the same time,” Daniel said. “We would run into each other in the hallways and it just reminded us how blessed we are to be able to take such an amazing nursing program.”

The Guerrero brothers and a few of their family members have dedicated their lives to helping others through health care. Their Aunt Raquel, who was a charge nurse in an emergency department in Salt Lake City, offered encouragement as they took up the career path.

“The main reason why I went into health care was to try to make a difference in the community around me and to help those in need,” Deren said. “I love to problem solve and to figure out why a person might not be feeling their best. Being a nurse also puts me in a unique position where I have an opportunity to help build trust with my patients when they are at their most vulnerable. Hopefully someday I can be the reason for someone else to go into health care.”

Deren’s personal experience as a patient was another reason he chose to go into nursing. He was injured in a motorcycle wreck in 2009.

“The nurse that took care of me was extremely compassionate, caring and made sure my pain and wounds were managed and treated before I was discharged,” Deren said. “The small amount of time that I had spent with that nurse was enough to make me want to become something great for the community around me.”

Deren graduated as a medical assistant a few years later, then moved to Coeur d’Alene in 2013 and became a certified nursing assistant at Kootenai Health. After a few years working on medical/surgical units, he transferred to Kootenai Health’s emergency department where he continued his education and became an emergency department technician. His journey then took him to NIC.

“Even though my health care experience and education had expanded, my hope to become a registered nurse had still not been fulfilled which is why I returned to NIC in fall of 2022 and enrolled into the LPN-RN bridge program,” he said. “Finally, after a year of intense clinical rotations, quizzes, exams, due dates, projects and assignments, I graduated from NIC and was pinned as a registered nurse in December of 2023.

“Today I am working as a pre-operation/post-anesthesia care unit nurse at Northwest Specialty Hospital in Post Falls, and am loving every minute of it,” he said.

Daniel also worked at Kootenai Health, where he served as an emergency department technician for almost seven years.

“It was there while working beside great ER nurses that I decided that I wanted to become a nurse too,” Daniel said. 

He said he came to the realization that he really likes helping people in their time of need.

“I like how this quote goes: ‘I might not be able to change the world, but I might be able to change the world for an individual person,’” Daniel said. “I take this with heart while I serve others in this community.”

Daniel is now working alongside his brother at Northwest Specialty Hospital as an LPN. He will continue his education at NIC by taking the LPN to RN bridge program.

He said his NIC experience will always be memorable.

“I will also look back on my life when I took the LPN nursing program with a smile,” Daniel said. “The LPN program was amazing, and the LPN instructors are the best, for sure. The LPN instructors were always encouraging me and guiding me throughout the whole program with kindness, fairness and always willing to sit down with me when I had questions.

“I can tell the LPN instructors really cared for me and my fellow classmates to become the best LPN nurses this state has ever seen,” he continued.

The advisers, instructors and stellar students, including the Guerrero brothers, are what help NIC’s nursing school continue to be among the best of the best.

The program is accredited through the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.

“When we had our national accreditation visit in October of 2022, the program was commended in several areas,” said Erlene Pickett, associate dean of health professions and nursing.

She said one of the questions asked of her was how long the program had NCLEX-RN Examination pass rates above 90%. Not certain, she contacted the Idaho Board of Nursing.

The board looked back as far as the electronic records go and shared that the NIC nursing program has had greater than 90% pass rates on the national licensure exam for at least the last 20 years.

“That is pretty astounding,” Pickett said. “Even through COVID, when we did a short switch to online learning and had to make some changes to our clinical experiences, we maintained our high pass rates.”

Pickett said she truly believes the rigorous program maintains such high caliber because of the dedication of its faculty, staff and students.

“We have tried to ensure we have support for the students,” Pickett said. “The pre-requisite course work they do helps set them up for success when they start nursing classes. Every person I have talked to in regional health care organizations has told me they like to hire NIC nursing graduates because they are very well prepared and some of the best graduates they hire. Those are pretty nice comments to hear.”

She said it is not unusual for siblings or other relatives to enroll in the program.

“They may be on the journey together or they may be supporting each other as they complete the journey at separate times,” she said.

The Guerrero brothers are shining examples of this — families with servants’ hearts and passions for caring for others.

“They were always positive,” Pickett said. “They are described by faculty as both being kind and considerate young men. They were very supportive of their peers and engaged with their classes. They were delightful to work with.”

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