Nursing director a strong leader for CMC program |

Nursing director a strong leader for CMC program

Suzie Romig
Colorado Mountain College
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Betty Bembenek, the director of nursing education at Colorado Mountain College (at right), answers a question about a computerized human patient simulator for incoming nursing student Erica Getty of Avon. Photo Suzie Romig

With a look of eagerness for learning on their faces, a room full of potential nurses touched, tested and asked questions about the high-tech human patient simulators at Colorado Mountain College at Glenwood Springs-Spring Valley.

The students varied in age from their 20s to 40s, traditional-aged college students to experienced EMTs, and included mostly women and a few men.

What the students attending the recent two-day orientation had in common was participation in the selective program. From 135 total applicants, 36 students were admitted into this year’s class in the associate degree program for registered nursing. Students will take classes at the college in Breckenridge or Spring Valley.

The associate degree in nursing essentially is a five-semester program and one of the most challenging degrees at Colorado Mountain College. To be admitted, the students must have already gotten a solid start on their higher education. Entering the program requires the completion of eight college-level nursing prerequisite classes such as Anatomy and Physiology I and II, Medical Terminology, Microbiology, and Human Growth and Development.

The students participated in orientation in early June, where they became familiar with the computerized patient simulator mannequins, picked up their nursing scrubs and participated in team-building exercises on the elevated ropes course.

Student Kris Eliopoulos is the mother of two teenagers and a longtime small business owner in Breckenridge who is embarking on a second career in nursing. She dived headfirst into her education when she took four prerequisite classes last summer. She is thinking of becoming an operating room or emergency room nurse.

“I just felt like I needed to do something more with my life,” Eliopoulos said, who was inspired to learn more to help care for her aging parents and in-laws. “If CMC wasn’t there, I don’t know if I would have been able to pursue my goals.”

Also attending her first Colorado Mountain College nursing orientation was Betty Bembenek, who in November joined the college as director of nursing education. Colleagues say Bembenek is an experienced, energetic and strong leader who is a perfect match to guide the nursing program toward national-level accreditation, a new requirement of the state of Colorado.

“Betty has a clear vision of the necessary steps to move us to the next level of excellence,” said Maureen Nuckols, professor of nursing at Glenwood Springs-Spring Valley. “What I really respect about her is that she brings with her the knowledge of the big picture of the future of nursing education.”

Carla Malmquist, CEO of the college’s sites in Carbondale, Glenwood Springs and Glenwood Springs-Spring Valley, added of Bembenek, “She’s put in an extraordinary amount of work and further solidified our program.”

Bembenek has worked in nursing and then nursing education since 1976, and in 1995 earned a master’s degree in nursing with role specialization in nursing management. Among her varied credentials, she was on the nursing faculty at Metropolitan State College of Denver, Salt Lake Community College and Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. She worked 15 years in the acute care setting in several states and most recently spent four years as a clinical nurse specialist/registered nurse for emergency and trauma services at Lutheran Medical Center in Wheat Ridge.

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