For Ernest Lennon, Galen College of Nursing changed his life.
When his parents, who were from Panama, both passed away from illnesses that he believes could have been prevented, he vowed to himself that it would never happen in his family again. The Washington native is the first American born in his family. He worked 16 hours a day, five to seven days a week at a treatment center, which left him with little or no time to see his wife, who he met while he was in the military in Fort Sam Houston.
“My wife told me the best thing I could do is to go to college,” he said. “And, as a result of what happened to my mom and dad, nursing was always something I thought about.”
Lennon was pleasantly surprised that he could complete Galen’s Vocational Nursing program in a year.
“And, if I continued for another 16 months, I could be an RN,” he said. “It blew me away because I thought I had just wasted 3½ years working at the treatment center, and I could’ve been in school this whole time.”
When Lennon started attending classes at the Galen’s San Antonio campus, he had no idea that he would be inspiring so many students. He had become well-versed in giving PowerPoint presentations, and those skills quickly turned into speaking engagements as a Student Representative at orientations.
Eventually, he was asked to speak at the Vocational Nursing (VN) graduation in 2011.
“I took the experiences that we had throughout the year and reminded my classmates of the heartaches, jokes, and laughs,” he said. “But I also told them all that we were prepared for a promising future.”
As a Student Representative, Lennon proactively sent updates via email and text messages to his fellow classmates. At the end of each quarter, he designed certificates for everyone in the class to encourage them to push toward their goals. For the VN graduation, he also created certificates for them.
Lennon’s standout efforts earned him The Marjorie Perrin Essence of Nursing Human Touch Award. The recipient is nominated by classmates who choose a peer they feel most embodies the human touch in their interactions with patients and fellow nurses.
But the VN graduation wasn’t the last speech Lennon delivered to students. Once Lennon completed the LVN to ADN program, he was asked to speak again to both the VN and ADN graduates. Not only did Lennon speak at the ceremonious event, but he also won another Human Touch award in 2013.
He went on to complete the Online RN to BSN program in 2018.
Today, Lennon has been working for the past seven years as a floor nurse at a mental health treatment center where they apply electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) to patients who struggle with PTSD, psychosis, or severe depression. ECT helps to stabilize the brain, so patients can have a normal routine, Lennon said.
“As floor nurses, we make sure the patients are treated well and check for any pain or nausea after they wake up from being under anesthesia,” he said.
Lennon believes Galen was a “confidence booster,” which helped him to face challenges head-on.
“When you first start the courses, it’s kind of not as daunting. But when you get into pharmacology, and medical-surgical classes, you almost want to pull your hair out because it’s not that easy to grasp,” he said. “But the professors work with you and help you get over those hurdles, which helped me with my skills and confidence.”
Lennon added: “My classmates were top-notch, and I felt like I was just the average guy. I was surrounded by instructors and students who were accomplished, and I felt great to be among them. They gave me so much encouragement.”