Meridian News
Practical Nursing: Health Care That is a Family Affair
April 24, 2019

Meridian’s Practical Nursing program is a family affair.

Mother-daughter duos Debra and Kehaulani Pililaau recently graduated from the program, and Danielle Hodges and Justine Schleve are more than halfway through their training.

“It’s unusual for us to have family members in the program at the same time, so having two sets of mothers and daughters in two classes is really quite extraordinary,” noted Dolores Cotton, Coordinator of Meridian’s Practical Nursing program. “In orientation, we tell students that to succeed in nursing school family support is essential. This particular group of students took that to heart.”

Debra and Danielle both began their journey in the medical field before they were mothers.

Danielle started nursing school 24 years ago, just before she found out she was pregnant with Justine. She decided to pause her training and focus on family.

Debra’s story is similar. She was last in school more than three decades ago.  As her family grew, her priorities changed. She switched her focus to raising her children. After the kids grew up, Debra’s husband Edward encouraged her to pursue her passion. “The door opened, and I just went for it,” she said of the decision to apply to the Practical Nursing program.

Life and motherhood altered their timelines, but never their career goals. As their children grew both mothers found careers in the health care industry.

Debra was a phlebotomist for more than 15 years. While employed at Stillwater Medical Center, she helped train students in Meridian’s Health Careers program. While she loved her job, she wanted more patient interaction. That led her to work in a doctor’s office and then on to nursing school.

Danielle has spent the last eight years working as a Certified Medication Assistant at Golden Age Nursing Home in Guthrie. During her performance reviews, her supervisors would encourage her to return to school to pursue her practical nursing license. She decided that now was the time to finish what she started.

“I always knew I would go back someday. I just didn’t know that it would be with her,” Danielle said of now being in school with Justine.

Like Mother Like Daughter

While Danielle and Debra’s enrollment at Meridian was about completing a dream, for daughters Justine and Kehaulani, it was about beginning one.

Justine recalls spending much of her childhood at her mom’s work. When it came time to choose a career, health care was all she knew. “It was my first job, and really, it’s the only thing I’ve ever done.”

Kehaulani’s journey to nursing also has a personal connection. When her father was sick, she saw firsthand the positive impact a nurse could have on a patient’s recovery. “That’s the good side of nursing,” she said with a smile. “It’s the ability to make a difference to a patient and a family. That’s my goal.”

Neither daughter had reservations about starting school with their mom. Both said they had great relationships before becoming classmates and indicated this experience has even helped them grow even closer.

“We are a tight family, and I think that really helped us achieve this goal. We were always there for each other. We started our pre-requisites together, and after we both got accepted we just continued to push each other through,” Kehaulani said of completing the program with her mom Debra.

Justine echoed the importance of having her mom by her side. “It’s nice that we can be there for each other and look out for each other,” she said. “There have been times where I’ve needed someone to push me or to encourage me. She knows exactly what I’m going through and how to help. There have also been moments when I’ve been able to support her. We’re able to balance each other and keep each other focused on the goal.”

Preparing for Practical Nursing

Meridian’s Practical Nursing program can be completed in 12 months. New classes start in February and August of each year. There are pre-requisites for admission consideration. Individuals who are interested in the program must attend an application orientation. Sessions are currently offered twice a month and at various times throughout the day. The deadline to apply for August enrollment is June 3. Information can be found at

Upon successful completion of the Practical Nursing Program, graduates may apply to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses. Once licensed, graduates will be prepared to work in hospitals, home health, doctor’s offices, long-term care facilities and various health care agencies. Meridian graduates have a 98% average pass rate on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) and 94% job placement. Employers who hire Meridian graduates report a 100% satisfaction rate and students who complete the program have a 98% satisfaction rate.

For more information on other career training programs available at Meridian visit

Pililaau LPN Graduates

Pililaau LPN Graduates

LPN students Hodges and Schleve

LPN students Hodges and Schleve

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