Eight community colleges have partnered with Oregon Health & Science University to address the state's shortage of nurses with bachelor's degrees.
The agreement will create the Oregon Consortium for Nursing Education, which is expected to be a national model for making the Bachelor of Science education more accessible, according to OHSU officials.
"It's a new and better way of learning, which will result in excellent patient care, said Kathleen Potempa, dean of the university's School of Nursing.
"There is an urgent need to train more nurses with a bachelor's degree because of the increasing sophistication of health care needs of our patients," Potempa said.
Oregon is experiencing a nursing shortage, one that will continue to grow over the next decade as nearly half of Oregon's nurses reach retirement age. Reasons for the shortage mirror those nationwide: aging of the general population, aging of the nursing work force, higher acuity and a greater level of nursing care and expertise needed by patients, workplace disincentives and the image of nursing.
While the United States is entering a prolonged period of severe nursing shortages nationwide, Oregon is disproportionately affected by many of these factors and is predicted to have a far greater nursing shortage than much of the nation in the coming years.
The Oregon Consortium for Nursing Education will help to increase the quality of the education, educate students more efficiently and prepare them for the future population's needs. Students already are applying to be part of program.
The nursing programs that will admit students for nursing courses beginning next fall are: Mt. Hood, Umpqua, Southwestern Oregon and Rogue community colleges, and all OHSU School of Nursing campuses: Marquam Hill, Ashland, Klamath Falls and La Grande. By fall 2007, Clackamas, Blue Mountain and Lane community colleges will offer enrollment to consortium students and in the fall of 2008 Treasure Valley Community College will be accepting nursing students.
Students who are accepted into one of the community college programs are automatically accepted into OHSU for upper division study. Students who have completed the required prerequisite courses and are accepted into the program will begin clinical nursing courses next fall.
"Nursing students take prerequisites at any community college or university. They then can apply for admission to one of the consortium programs to begin nursing courses in their second year of full-time study," said Chris Tanner, Ph.D., R.N., of OHSU.
Tanner is serving as a consultant to the consortium's steering committee and helping to guide the new curriculum's development. The curriculum is essentially the same on each of the consortium campuses for the first three years — one year of prerequisites and two years of nursing, supporting sciences and liberal arts. The final four terms of the program are entirely OHSU coursework, which students will be able to complete on their home campus. The courses will be offered by OHSU faculty using distance technology and by faculty from community colleges.
"This will be a seamless four years for the students, as participants in a standard curriculum. Students who begin their coursework at a community college will be able to transfer to the OHSU upper division coursework, bringing with them their financial aid packages," said Sandy Hendy, R.N., M.S.N., Umpqua Community Coll-ege director of health occupations
"The curriculum is innovative, incorporating best practices in nursing education. It raises the bar in terms of expectations for graduates: They will be educated as leaders in health care, skilled in using the best available scientific evidence in their practice, and as compassionate, knowledgeable and skillful providers of care."