New Hiram Program Addresses Nursing

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As the baby boomer generation retires and ages, the demand for nurses in all fields of medicine is growing. Here in Ohio, it's predicted 10,000 new nurses will be needed by the end of the decade. The stability and mobility of nursing make the profession attractive, but getting into a training program can be difficult, with some prospective students facing two to three year waiting lists. Lisa Anderson at the Center for Health Affairs in Cleveland says nursing schools aren't expanding their programs fast enough.

Lisa Anderson: Obviously people's career plans are put on hold during that time and there's only so long they're going to wait.

The new nursing school at Hiram College, just east of Twinsburg, may shorten those wait times a bit. But that's not necessarily the goal at Hiram. A superior program is the goal, and the director of the new nursing program, Davinna Gosnell, says their course, designed to fit in with the school's traditional liberal arts structure, provides that.

Davinna Gosnell: Health care is very complex today and it demands nurses that have really sound strong liberal arts and science education.

Gosnell says flexibility in course offerings at the college will also make the program unique in the region.

Davinna Gosnell: You can do creative kinds of things for the curriculum with some of the things that they have there, which will be the thing that makes it distinct from other nursing programs.

But the nursing program at Hiram will only solve a small fraction of the nursing shortage. It plans to accept only 40 students each year. The Center for Health Affairs' Lisa Anderson says that means, by 2020, when the nursing shortage is pushing 100,000 vacancies in Ohio, Hiram will have, at most, graduated .5% of the total nurses needed. But, she say, that's okay - Ohio can use all the nurses it can get.

Lisa Anderson: I think the program at Hiram is going to make a difference, but the fact is, to make more nurses its going to need many more programs enrolling more students.

Anderson says schools are inherently limited in the number of nurses they can educate for two reasons. One is the requirement that students get hands-on training on site in nursing homes and hospitals. Anderson says hospitals and colleges aren't very coordinated in this process, and openings often go unfilled. So the Center for Health Affairs is working on an internet service to match up nurses with clinical vacancies.

Lisa Anderson: It will actually establish the number of clinical sites we have available- it will be able to load on new clinical sites as they become available.

A second problem is finding qualified teachers. Anderson says nurses are often reluctant to leave medical settings because the pay is higher there. One solution, she says, might be to recruit older nurses into teaching - people who may be looking for relief from the long shifts and physical demands of hospital patient care.

Lisa Anderson: Those nurses may be looking at the fact that the physical demands of education may be less, intellectually they may be as great or even greater.

But if there's one thing Anderson's sure of, it's that the problem is complex. And the nursing program at Hiram will help simplify it. But many more programs of its kind are needed. Because by the time its first class of Hiram nurses graduate, in 2011, Ohio will have a projected deficit of over 10,000 nurses. Lisa Ann Pinkerton, 90.3.

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