Community colleges step up nurse-education efforts

Western Nevada Community College in Nevada thinks it can find nursing students in out-of-the-way corners of the state.

Truckee Meadows Community College, meanwhile, has found success with a fast-track program that allows students who already have a college degree to become registered nurses with only four additional semesters of study.

Both schools are pushing hard to meet the demand for registered nurses in the state, where the Nevada Hospital Association estimates at least 662 additional nurses will be needed annually through 2008.

Already, federal regulators say the number of registered nurses per capita in Nevada is the lowest in the nation.

Enrollment in the nursing program at Western Nevada Community College, based in Carson City, is up by 19 this year, says Judy Cordia, director of nursing and allied health programs.

The enrollment of 108 includes 48 second-year nursing students and 60 first-year students.

To find those students, WNCC is working closely with executives of health-related organizations including hospitals and nursing homes in rural communities through the region.

Some potential nursing students may be holding other jobs in health-care institutions, Cordia says, while some may have been daunted by the prerequisites faced by potential nursing students.

Cordia says nursing faculty harbor hope that some of the students recruited from rural areas will choose to return once their studies are complete.

"We're trying to meet the needs of our area," she says.

At Truckee Meadows Community College, meanwhile, a class of 31 fast-track graduates have received their nursing pins after a fast-and-furious trip through nursing school.

The graduates who were pinned in mid-August had started school in May 2005, and all of the graduates who wanted to go to work immediately had jobs on graduation day, says Karen Fontaine, coordinator of the nursing program at TMCC.

"All of our graduates are very highly prized," she says. Surveys almost always find that they're all at work as registered nurses within six months of graduation.

Twenty-four students were the first graduates from from the fast-track program last year.

Intense as the fast-track program may be, some students make it even more so.

Julie Morgan, for instance, found she was pregnant with twins just before starting the program.

The course doesn't allow students to miss any class time, but Morgan went ahead. She delivered twins on Friday, Sept. 9, 2005. Three days later on Monday, Sept. 12 she was back in class.

Fontaine noted that the TMCC nursing programs have strong support of Washoe Medical Center, Saint Mary's and Northern Nevada Medical Center. The hospitals provide everything from faculty to snacks for ceremonies.

There's a reason for the involvement, says Dennis Hoban, director of recruitment services at Washoe Medical Center.

Even a small number of new graduates say, 10 or so from the region's community colleges can make a significant difference for hospitals that struggle to meet the need for nurses.

"Everything helps," says Hoban.


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