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Spotlight: Building the “Backbone” of the Community’s Healthcare

Cynthia Arpin (right) is a registered nurse (RN) and an assistant professor of nursing at Three Rivers Community College (TRCC) in Norwich where she also serves as a course coordinator. Her students are in the second of the four semesters that comprise the Community College Nursing Program (CT-CCNP) and which awards them an Associate in Science Degree upon graduation.
Arpin, who prior to her current role worked for nearly 20 years at the William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich, believes she provides pathways that benefit the whole region.
“Our nursing students graduate and become the backbone of our community’s healthcare system,” said Arpin, a member of our AFT Connecticut-affiliated Federation of Technical College Teachers. “If you walk the halls of either Lawrence + Memorial or Backus Hospital, you’re going to find a lot of TRCC grads,” added Arpin, herself an alum of the nursing program.
Arpin is part of a team at the Norwich campus that includes 12 full-time faculty, a dedicated lab nurse and a CT-CCNP director. They utilize a course of study that is common to the entire Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) system and offered at five other locations in the state.
“We all have the same curriculum, but also have the ability to make it flexible to meet the needs of our particular demographics,” added Arpin. Many of her students are “non-traditional,” and face unique challenges, whether simply pursuing the program’s two-year associates degree or aspiring to a bachelors or masters degree in nursing. 
Click here for recent press reporting on the anticipated growth of Connecticut’s healthcare industry.
Many students seek out the nursing program not simply to learn a trade, but, as Arpin puts it, “to fulfill a calling.” She added that she feels like she has “always been a nurse,” and went through the training in order to make it her vocation.
“I meet many students who feel that way, too — it’s a pleasure to work with all of them, but especially those who have a passion for nursing,” said Arpin.
Click here for recent press reporting on TRCC’s national ranking among colleges that provide opportunities to low-income students.
Arpin and her team provide career training and instruction in the fast growing field of healthcare that is both cost-effective and accessible, making it a sound public investment. However, austerity budget policies at both the state and federal levels risk students’ ability to take advantage of opportunities currently provided by the public college system.
“It’s important to prioritize funding for our community colleges,” Arpin said, adding that CSCU’s degree programs make a higher education possible “for people who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity.”
Stripping resources away through misguided budget cuts risk “stripping away any chance of advancement for so many who can’t afford the big universities,” Arpin said. She added that disinvestment in programs like the CT-CCNP will make the region’s nursing shortage more acute, imperiling patients’ future care.
Click here to watch Arpin share more about how she helps prepare the region’s next generation of caregivers.
For the second year in a row, national Public Service Recognition Week (PSRW) comes at a time of significant challenge for Connecticut’s state employees, municipal workers and local education professionals. While the annual acknowledgement is meant to celebrate the work of everyday heroes like Arpin and her colleagues, it’s also an opportunity to draw the attention of our elected leaders.
The Public Employees Roundtable (PER) each year coordinates PSRW to raise awareness, celebrate excellence and foster dialogue about the value of public service at the national, state and local levels.
Click here to learn more about the annual recognition week celebration.

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