Nancy Rangel

Nancy Rangel, Temple College respiratory care student, monitors a “patient” during a practice session at the simulation center.

Nancy Rangel is set to graduate in December from Temple College with an associate degree of applied science in respiratory care.

Her journey in higher education has not been without some bumps. Rangel started off pursuing respiratory care certification at Virginia College in Austin, a not-for-profit school. Virginia College lost its accreditation and announced in 2018 it would close its Austin site in 2020, but instead closed its doors in December 2018.

Rangel, who is graduating from TC at the top of her class, both academically and clinically, shared her story with TC trustees at the November board meeting.

“Nancy and four of her classmates have faced some pretty extreme challenges getting to this position,” said Shelley Pearson, associate vice president of health professions.

In 2017, Rangel registered at Virginia College, never imagining the school would close.

“I remember that day like it was yesterday, we were in clinicals,” Rangel said. “We got a call from our clinical director who told us we needed to return to the school. If they were taking us out of clinical, it wasn’t going to be good news.”

The students were given two weeks notice of the closure.

She was concerned, believing all of the time she had spent in school would be lost because credits don’t always transfer from nonprofits.

“I thought I was going to have to start over,” Rangel said.

A director at Virginia College let the students know she had been in contact with TC and the respiratory care program director who wanted to meet with them.

“I was so excited,” she said. “We met with Dr. C (Bill Cornelious, director of the respiratory care program at TC until he recently retired) and while he didn’t know how it would happen, they were going to try to work with us.”

The Virginia College students started classes at TC in January 2019.

“We did have to retake some classes and do additional clinical hours,” Rangel said. “I tried to stay positive and be the best student I could be.”

Rangel said she learned a lot and appreciated being able to do clinicals at a number of different hospitals.

She did her internship at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Temple.

“It’s such a big hospital with lots of different opportunities to learn,” she said. “Also, there’s a lot of opportunities for growth.”

The manager of the respiratory care program at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Temple said he would be waiting for an email from Rangel once she gets her license and credentials.

“It’s been a rocky road and there have been a lot of obstacles but, hey, on Dec. 13 I’m graduating,” she said.

Rangel and two other former Virginia College respiratory care students will graduate in December and the remaining two will finish in May.

Four of the Austin school’s students joined TC’s sonography program in the fall and will graduate in the spring, Pearson said.

These efforts were not acts of charity, she said. This was an opportunity and these students have made the best of it.

A lesson learned was not to automatically react negatively to an idea just because there’s not a system in place, Pearson said.

Cornelious brought the issue to Pearson, who contacted the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to discern what TC needed to do to get the Virginia College students into the health programs.

Many of the colleges approached about accepting the students were quick to say no because there was no process in place.

The coordinating board knew of no process to handle the situation and told TC to do its best.

“This was probably about the biggest effort across the college we’ve tackled,” she said.

Advising, admissions and records, biology, psychology, financial aid, e-learning all played a role.

“It was true teamwork. I never heard ‘we can’t,’” Pearson said. “I only heard ‘how can we help.’”

In the end, TC has created as a model that can be used in the future by other schools facing similar circumstances, she said.

Dr. Andjes Avots-Avotins said he appreciated all of the work people put in to make it work.

“I’m glad we never said no,” he said. “When it comes to student success, we can’t say no.”