GUTHRIE, Okla. – Jody Arhnsbrak has gone from one of the first Practical Nursing graduates at Meridian Technology Center to one of the first Flex Learning Lab instructors at the school’s new South Campus.
The Flex Learning Labs provide on-demand training in bloodborne pathogens, certified medication aide, clinical medical assistant, home health aide, medication administrative technician, medication administration technician update, and vital signs. The labs offer both in-person and online learning. Labs are available at the South Campus in Guthrie as well as the Main Campus in Stillwater. And, as the name suggests, flexibility is the key.
This framework was an important element in Arhnsbrak’s return to Meridian’s Technology Program.
When the Guthrie native completed her training in 1976, she began working nights as a medical-surgical nurse at Guthrie’s hospital. About a year later, she helped move patients to the new location. From there, she moved into surgery, where she would spend the next 35-plus years. In addition to working full-time, Arhnsbrak earned her associate’s degree at Oklahoma State University’s Oklahoma City campus and a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Langston University.
After leaving the hospital, Arhnsbrak pursued other aspects of health care, working as an operating room supervisor, an ambulatory care nurse manager and a clinic nurse. She also served as the wellness administrator at Guthrie Job Corps, a staff nurse at Companion Healthcare, then ultimately back to the hospital setting, working as the facility’s performance improvement and emergency manager. She took early retirement in February 2020, and since then, she’s stayed busy creating a life outside health care. She’s traveled the world, become a master gardener, and taken up pottery and making stained glass as hobbies.
Arhnsbrak is quick to tell you that she loves the life she created in retirement. She’s busy when she wants to be and fills her calendar with only what she wants.
“I wasn’t looking for work when this position came open,” she said. “A friend told me about it, and then I talked to South Campus staff about the details. It isn’t a traditional job and doesn’t have traditional hours. The flexible schedule appealed to me because it meant I could still do everything I’ve grown to love in retirement.”
As a lifelong learner, Arhnsbrak enjoys helping others advance their careers.
“I have a lot of experience that I can offer, and I honestly love teaching. It helps me keep my finger on the pulse of the profession. Plus, in this industry, you never stop learning,” she explained.
Arhnsbrak is one of three nurses who lead the South Campus Flex Lab. She, along with coworkers Robin Channel and Lauren Colorio, provide an environment where students can earn critical industry certifications based on their unique schedules.
“It works out well for our students,” she explained. “Most of them have full-time jobs, and they want to learn new skills to further their career. More responsibility means more money.”
Flex Learning Provides Options for Health Care Practitioners
Flex Learning Labs offer a versatile learning environment where students learn foundational theory and didactic skills using an online curriculum.
“Students have access to online curriculum, classrooms, computers and instructional support during a time that is convenient to them,” explained Rena Hines, Meridian’s Director of Adult Training and Development.
In the last 14 months, more than 450 students have taken advantage of the school’s Flex Learning Labs. Several health professions, such as nurse aides and home health aides, allow students to earn certifications and then quickly move into the workforce.
“When they are ready for a skills demonstration in the lab, they schedule a time to meet face-to-face with an instructor. They have time to practice their new skills, and when they are ready for competency testing, they make an appointment with the instructor for a skills check,” Hines added.
For students, this framework provides an opportunity for them to juggle work, home and furthering their education, and, frequently, their career advancement. Flexibility was a deciding factor for Amy Willhoite, who is enrolled in the medication administration technician courses.
Willhoite volunteers in a local private independent senior living facility and is taking classes to help ensure she’s complying with industry requirements. She volunteers during the day and attends class in smaller chunks that coincide with her availability. On the other hand, her classmates attend for more extended periods.
“If this program weren’t flexible, I wouldn’t be able to do this training and earn this certification,” she explained. “It would have been a deal breaker because my priority is my residents.”
The Flex Learning Lab at the South Campus in Guthrie is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The lab at the Main Campus in Stillwater is available from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday. To learn more about courses offered in this format, visit meridiantech.edu/flexlearninglab.
Meridian Technology Center has been a driver of economic development since 1975. With a mission to educate, enrich lives and secure economic futures, Meridian offers full-time career training programs, short courses, workforce and economic development assistance and entrepreneurial support to residents from the Agra, Carney, Glencoe, Guthrie, Morrison, Mulhall-Orlando, Pawnee, Perkins-Tryon, Perry and Stillwater school districts. The school has locations in Stillwater and Guthrie. Meridian is one of 29 schools within Oklahoma’s CareerTech system.
For more information or to enroll, visit meridiantech.edu or contact a career counselor by phone at (405) 377-3333 or toll-free at (888) 607-2509.