t’s been 50 years since the first practical nursing class was offered in Mercer County, and a reception is in the works to celebrate the program.

“It started in the old Musser school in Sharon,” said Mary Jane Peters.

The program eventually moved to the Mercer County Career Center, where Peters works as the coordinator of health sciences.

A reception for individuals with a connection to practical nursing education in Mercer County is set for 2 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 3, at the center, 776 Greenville Road, Coolspring Township.

Program graduates, instructors and community members are invited to attend. They’ll be joined by local elected officials and members of the career center staff.

“I do want to see alumni for sure,” Peters said.

She’s sure that the gathering will be like a class reunion for some attendees, and she’s been spreading the word through social media.

She also plans to make flyers for nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, where many practical nursing graduates work. Others go on to hospice care, hospitals, clinics, home health, doctors’ offices, drug and alcohol programs, and more.

People with practical nursing degrees are known for excellent bedside care, and western Pennsylvania continues to produce wonderful nurses who work all over the country, she said.

“There’s still a need for practical nursing,” Peters said.

Peters has worked as a registered nurse and also spent time as an oncology nurse and taught practical nursing. She pursued the field because she enjoys helping others.

The Mercer County Career Center’s practical nursing program is one year, and it attracts students from all backgrounds.

“This is a great place to start,” she said.

For the celebration, Peters is organizing some old class photos and memorabilia like graduation programs and nurses’ caps.

She’ll display the items at the event and is looking for more photos and supplies that will help showcase the program’s success over the past 50 years.

A few speakers will be lined up to talk about their nursing education experiences and careers.

Peters added that practical nursing offers job stability, and the center has had many great instructors.

“They put their hearts and minds into it,” she said.

Graduates from practical nursing classes in Mercer County are asked to e-mail pnalumni@mercerccc.org and share where they are now and how their educational experiences have helped them achieve their career goals.

Also, anyone with memorabilia from any of the practical nursing classes are asked to call Peters at 724-662-3000, ext. 1540.