scc nursing program

Southwestern Community College nursing student Amanda Bewick checks the vitals on a simulation mannequin back in February in the Balsam Center on the SCC campus. Ninety-two percent of the program’s most-recent graduating class passed their national licensing exam on the first attempt.

One of Southwestern Community College’s oldest academic programs is enjoying a major resurgence.

The most-recent graduates of SCC’s Nursing program posted a 92 percent success rate on the national licensure exam – an improvement of nearly 25 percentage points from a year earlier among Southwestern’s first-time test-takers.

It’s the result of some significant, targeted strategies undertaken to improve the ability of SCC graduates to succeed on the NCLEX-RN (National Council Licensure Examination – Registered Nurses).

“Even though 94 percent of our graduates from last year passed their licensing exams within six months of graduation, several of them had to retake the exam to succeed,” said Thom Brooks, executive vice president of Instruction and Student Services at SCC. “We took a hard look at our program and made some major changes aimed at helping our students more adequately prepare for this critical exam.”

SCC first offered “Practical Nurse Education” in 1967, and the program has evolved to where it now prepares students to become registered nurses.

Collaboratively with Western Carolina University, SCC also offers a “RIBN” (Regionally Increasing Baccalaureate Nurses) pathway that allows students to pursue their bachelor’s degrees in nursing by taking their first three years at Southwestern and their final year at WCU.

“Nursing is one of the most vital programs we offer, and it’s also our most competitive,” Brooks said. “We all rely on having well-trained nurses in our local healthcare systems to provide for us and our loved ones. It’s a rigorous field of study, and we have very high expectations for the students who get admitted into this program. I’m very pleased with the improvements we’ve seen over the past year.”

Every year, SCC receives hundreds of qualified applications but can only accept approximately 60 students into the Nursing program.

Upon completion of SCC’s new Health Sciences building, which is set to open for the Fall 2021 semester, Southwestern will have the capacity to accept 20 additional nursing students – along with the capacity to prepare another 120 across the college’s other Health Sciences programs.

SCC currently has 14 such programs but is expecting to add two more (Surgical Technology and Opticianry) upon the building’s completion – pending state approval.

“We started planning for this new building long before the pandemic began because there’s a tremendous need for more healthcare workers in our area,” said Don Tomas, SCC president. “With COVID-19 and its impact on our world, the training opportunities this building represents are now even more relevant. We have the best faculty, administration, staff and students of any community college in the country, and we’re committed to filling this area’s healthcare training needs while adhering to the highest-possible standards.”

For more information about SCC’s Nursing program – or any of the college’s other Health Sciences programs – visit or call 339-4000.