Barton nursing students get real world experience

February 25, 2014

Story and photos by Joe Vinduska

Pat Kottas needed both knees replaced.  The years of his youth spent crouched as a baseball catcher and playing football coupled with the subsequent years of chasing his kids around, coaching their sports teams and climbing multiple sets of stairs daily at work, had left him unable to stand up straight.  He walked in a stooped over fashion.  After some badgering from his family, which included Barton Community College’s Director of Nursing and Healthcare Education Programs Dr. Kathy Kottas, the time had come for him to bite the bullet and succumb to his bilateral knee replacement surgery on Dec. 13, 2013.

Upon waking up in post-op at Great Bend Regional Hospital, Pat was cared for with great attention to detail by two young ladies.  Pat noticed the high quality of care that was provided to him and the intense professionalism and shared his sentiments with his wife Kathy, who then informed him that both nurses were Barton nursing students who were working the night shift during their respective Christmas breaks.  Kristin Wondra, who had finished her Licensed Practical Nurse Certificate, was working towards her Registered Nurse Certificate and Anissa Widiger, who had finished her Certified Nurse Aide Certificate, was working towards her LPN.  Both were at his bedside during his initial recovery period.

“I was very impressed with how I was taken care of,” Pat said.  “If I hadn’t been told by Kathy, there is no way I would have known they were still students because they were so professional and did such a good job.”

Kathy said it was amazing to learn that her students had done so well and seeing her efforts come full circle was very fulfilling.

“I felt almost like a proud mama,” she said.  “It’s great to see students that my faculty and I have worked with and nurtured; grow into the nurses that they are,” she said.  To see them doing well is just very special.  They came to us being good women, so that made our job easy … we just showed them the nursing side of it.”

Wondra said she simply tries to provide the kind of care she would want to receive.

“I want them to have the best experience possible,” she said.  “I just try to give them the kind of care I would want.  Everybody needs to be treated well.”

Widiger agreed and said one of her main goals is to get patients back to their normal lives as soon as possible.

“I do everything I can to make them comfortable so they can recover and go home to their families.  Nobody wants to sit around and be miserable any longer than they have to.”

Kottas said the design of the nursing program at Barton is to emphasize teamwork and clinical experience in order to produce nurses who are prepared for real-life situations.

“We get them to the bedside early,” Kottas said.  “I’m very proud of the clinical experiences our students gain, and we have great clinical sites right here in Great Bend as well as Hoisington, Larned and Ellinwood.  They also are able to go to Hays, Wichita, Salina and Dodge City.  We utilize a variety of settings so they get to see a lot of different things.”

Both students said their experience at Barton has prepared them to be successful in the field.

“The instructors know what they are talking about because they’ve experienced it in real life,” Wondra said.  “They are always willing to help out if you have questions.  Barton is a great school with a lot of good opportunities.”

“The instructors definitely help us as far as what to expect when we get in the field, and really helping us understand why we are doing things, so that when we are on our own we know what we are doing and we are not running around like a chicken with its head cut off,” Widiger said.  “We are very prepared.”

For more information on the nursing program, contact Heather Dombroski at or (620) 792-9357.