An Olympic College alum has turned her passion for learning into a passion for teaching, and is now introducing a new generation to the healthcare field.
Megan Ritchie, a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) who completed all of her nursing training at Olympic College, is an instructor at New Market Skills Center, a vocational education consortium of 10 western Washington school districts, including the Shelton School District, located in Tumwater. The center prepares students for post-secondary education, apprenticeships, and entrance into the workforce by providing technical training that would be too expensive for a single district to fund. Although procedures are different due to COVID-19, students are typically transported to New Market from their home high schools, and spend half their day at the high school and the other half at the skills center.
Ritchie began her own education in the healthcare field by enrolling in the Nursing Assistant Certification program at OC Shelton through Running Start her junior year of high school. After graduating in 2006 and working as a nursing assistant, she finished her prerequisites for the Licensed Practical Nursing program at OC Poulsbo. She graduated from the program in 2008 and later worked as an LPN in Shelton.
Nursing was a natural fit for Ritchie, she says. She has aunts who are nurses, and the career tests she took in high school all pointed toward a career in healthcare. When she did her nursing assistant clinicals at a local Shelton facility, it became crystal clear she’d chosen the right path.
“I really found a passion for the healthcare industry and being a nursing assistant, so I think that was a big influence on continuing the nursing pathway,” she said, adding that the ability to stay close to home while completing her college education was key to her success.
In 2013, she saw an advertisement seeking instructors at New Market Skills Center. Ritchie was working in nursing management at the time, a 24/7 job where she was always on call.
“I had no interest in ever being a teacher,” she said. “It definitely wasn’t anything I thought I would be going toward.”
The Career and Technical Education (CTE) program at OC gave Ritchie the skills she needed to teach at New Market. OC is one of seven Washington state providers approved by the state’s Professional Educator Standards Board (PESB) to provide CTE certification. The certification allows people to teach career and technical education classes in middle or high school.
The program taught her how to apply her industry knowledge while instructing her on fundamental teaching concepts like classroom management. “It helps you take what you know from your industry and apply it to the classroom, and ultimately be able to help your students and guide them for their career,” she said.
The flexibility of OC’s program allowed Ritchie to complete it even as she continued to work as a nurse. “It made it really easy to complete the program while I was dealing with my personal life and working fulltime,” she said. “If I’d had to take time off work, it wouldn’t have been possible.”
The CTE program attracts people from a variety of industries who value the opportunity to pass on their knowledge to a new generation, said CTE Program Manager Mourine Anduiza.
“Individuals come to us from engineering, graphic arts, culinary arts, banking, health care and theater production, just to name a few,” she said. “Some are retiring and want to give back to today’s youth. Some have educators in their families and see the satisfaction and want to be a teacher themselves.”
Ritchie was glad she took the risk of applying to New Market. She was hired on in January 2014 and she has discovered she’s just as passionate about teaching as she is about nursing. Not only does she get to help provide opportunities for her students, but she also gets to watch her students go on to help people.
“I might not be providing direct patient care every day, but through my instruction, my students are going out in the community and doing great things and continuing their education,” she said. “In that way it’s been really rewarding.”
Ritchie took a brief hiatus from New Market in the summer of 2017 to work in acute care and teach CPR and First Aid in the community, but she returned to the school in March 2018. She is also the head of the committee for the New Market Foundation Norma Lorre Scholarship.
Megan said she’s thankful she had OC available in her community so she could complete all of her educational requirements in the nursing field and start her career. And she sees community colleges as a good fit for many of her students, especially since there are many opportunities for students to earn scholarships to help them pay for college.
“I’m thankful that I have the community colleges to recommend to my students, because they might not know about these opportunities unless it’s coming from myself or my other coworkers or instructors and the opportunities are great,” she said.