Kent State Twinsburg Academic Center's LPN-to-RN Bridge Program Offers Alum Career of His Dreams

If you’ve ever felt stuck somewhere between your job and your ideal career because you’re too busy making a living to go back to college, you’ll understand Restituto "Tuto" Velarde’s position. Thankfully, Kent State University’s Twinsburg Academic Center provided a bridge so he could get to the other side.

Tuto, BSN ‘18, RN, is a rehab registered nurse, caring for patients with severe traumatic brain injuries and strokes. He finds it remarkably rewarding to participate in patients’ recovery while also teaching clinicals to nursing students. Not long ago, he couldn’t imagine being able to advance beyond his status as an LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) with an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN). But then he heard about Kent State Twinsburg Academic Center's LPN-to-RN bridge program that allowed him to continue working as an LPN while pursuing his bachelor’s degree and a more fulfilling career as an RN.

Tuto is a dual alum from Kent State University, having received his LPN-to-ADN in May 2017 from the Twinsburg Academic Center. Then he completed the 100% online RN-to-BSN program, graduating from the Kent Campus in December 2018.

The first segment of Kent State's LPN-to-RN bridge program can be completed part-time, allowing students the flexibility to continue working as an LPN. Since these courses are offered at Kent State regional campuses, students can complete them close to home and at a reduced tuition rate. Plus, nearly all the courses are offered 100% online. In the second segment of the program, students complete the full-time professional nursing sequence that leads to becoming a BSN-prepared registered nurse.

“The flexibility of LPN-to-RN bridge helped me decide to continue my nursing journey,” he says. “I thought it was impossible to get my RN until I attended the LPN-to-RN information session. The unique LPN-to-RN program at the Twinsburg Academic CEnter provided me the best quality education in becoming a registered nurse.”

Both the LPN and RN programs allowed Tuto to broaden his knowledge base, develop his nursing skills, strengthen his resolve, progress in leadership, and engage in research. Tuto says that his new status as a registered nurse with a baccalaureate degree from Kent State has opened many doors of opportunity for him. He works full-time at Summa Rehab Hospital and per diem at Cleveland Clinic Rehab Hospital in Beachwood. Also, he teaches ADN fundamentals of nursing as an adjunct clinical instructor at Stark State College and Bryant & Stratton College in Parma.

“I would say that my career as a registered nurse continues to push me in achieving my highest potential,” he says. Furthermore, I love teaching, and I love the fact that as a clinical instructor, I am able to give back and share my knowledge with future nurses.”

From his new perspective, Tuto can’t say enough about the quality education he received at Kent State Twinsburg Academic Center. While the nursing program is challenging, campus resources — including a helpful nursing faculty, supportive tutoring services, fast-speed internet, and high-tech student lounge and classroom environments — offer nursing students the opportunity to excel, both academically and clinically.

Beyond academic and practical skills, Tuto says that the Twinsburg Academic Center has imbued him with two ethical principles: integrity and respect. “Integrity and respect are intertwined values that a nursing student or a current practicing nurse like myself must possess to be able to provide a positive impact to their patients, families as well as coworkers’ lives.”

In particular, “One of the best instructors that I will never forget and who inspires me to be the best version of the nurse I can be is Dawn Ensminger-Stokes,” he points out. “Dawn is a unique individual who has the passion of teaching as well as passion in nursing. Her kindness, respect, and love for her students (like a mother) were reflected in every encounter we had with her in class, plus a very intelligent mind is what makes Dawn special and pushed me to get out of my comfort zone.”

Even as Tuto has made great strides in his career, his journey continues. He has gone from providing bedside nursing to advanced nursing care. Now he has his sights set on becoming a nurse practitioner so he can diagnose patients and develop individualized, effective plans of care for them. Currently enrolled in the MSN-FNP (Master of Science in Nursing - Family Nurse Practitioner) program at Chamberlain University, Velarde expects to graduate in December 2020. He couldn’t have made it this far without crossing that initial bridge.