'RN-to-BSN' program aims to tackle nursing shortage

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NORTH PLATTE, Neb.-- Nebraska's nursing shortage is expected to hit 4,000 nurses by 2020, according to the University of Nebraska Medical Center; but, a new partnership aims to fight the nursing shortage and make it easier for local students to get a bachelor's degree.

UNMC, Mid-Plains Community College and Great Plains Health are teaming up for the RN-to-BSN program, or registered nurse to bachelor's degree in nursing program.

The 12-month program includes six classes, or 20 credit hours worth of material.

RN-to-BSN wants to make classes more accessible and affordable for nurses, all while offering the community good health care.

"One of our strategic objectives is to ensure access to quality care, so it is our mission to make sure to have enough nurses that are well-educated to meet the needs of a growing population of individuals that are retiring now," Mel McNea, CEO of Great Plains Health, said.

Stephanie Weir, a registered nurse at Great Plains Health, agrees.

"This program develops your theory in nursing; and that, in turn, will help develop critical thinking which is important for specialties [like cardiac, for example]," Weir noted. "It's going to help us be intuitive and anticipate conditions and concerns prior to them happening."

Hospital and college officials alike believe this new partnership will help nurses develop critical-thinking skills and grow in leadership roles.

"It's something that we've really felt strongly about," Ryan Purdy, Mid-Plains Community College president, said. "This is what we need to happen. It's an online program, but they're going to provide on-ground, supplemental instruction, at least once a month. It's a great opportunity for students not to have to leave the North Platte area to get that BSN."

Hospital officials believe that having a BSN can open more doors for students.

"More education means that more nurses become leaders and they have more opportunity to grow in their career," Tamara Martin-Linnard, chief clinical officer at Great Plains Health, said.

The deadline to apply for the fall semester is June 30. Students can register for the program through the University of Nebraska Online. Call the UNMC College of Nursing for more information at 402-559-4110, or send an e-mail to unmcnursing@unmc.edu.