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Orvis nursing school fights shortage with fast-track class

John Seelmeyer

Battling the state’s shortage of nursing, the Orvis School of Nursing at the University of Nevada at Reno is preparing for its third class of “fast track” nurses to begin this summer.

In the fast-track program, students who already have an undergraduate degree in another discipline finish their nursing degrees in 18 months rather than two years.

A class of 24 nurses graduated in December through the fast-track program.

The program was partially funded by a $240,000 grant through NevadaWorks, the agency that funnels federal job-training money to northern Nevada.

An earlier fast-track class of about 15 students was partially funded by the Nevada Hospital Association.

The class that begins this year will be the first entirely funded by UNR.

Pam Schueler, undergraduate coordinator in the school of nursing, said legislative changes in the way that summer sessions are funded means the fasttrack program won’t need outside help.

Schueler said UNR hopes to enroll 30 students in the next fast-track program.

The effort is important, said Sharon Nipp, a grants analyst with NevadaWorks, because Nevada ranks last among the states in the number of nurses per capita.

At the same time, she said the fasttrack program only makes a dent in Nevada’s need for nurses.

One report estimates the state needs 662 new nurses a year to keep up with growing demand.