WMH, schools, partner on nursing program
HONESDALE - “We need nurses and we are looking at innovative ways to grow our own,” said Virginia Fries, RN, at a meeting at Wayne Memorial Hospital in March. She spoke to representatives from seven local school districts in Pennsylvania and New York State about a potential collaboration with Luzerne County Community College (LCCC) that could prepare local high school students for healthcare careers.
The collaboration could offer students reduced college tuition costs, early graduation from college and the assurance of a job with benefits. In today’s precarious economy, advantages like these are difficult to ignore.
Three school districts jumped at the chance to tell their students about the potential collaboration—Western Wayne, Wallenpaupack and Wayne Highlands. Over the course of the next few weeks, these districts will host town meetings to inform the public, particularly parents and students, about healthcare opportunities in their own backyard.
WMH is aggressively pursing its own course to prepare the next generation of nurses to work at the hospital—with good reason.
“The average age of our RNs (registered nurses) is 43 years old,” WMH’s Director of Patient Care Services, Virginia Fries, RN, told the audience. “Baby boomers now reaching their older years are going to need care and we are not going to have the resources to care for them, unless we become directly involved to develop quality nurses to meet those demands.”
Dana Clark, RN, EdD, Dean of Nursing and Health Sciences at LCCC said the college can offer additional classes in Wayne County that would put high school students on a path to earning an Associates of Applied Science Degree in Nursing (AAS) and licensure as an RN in Pennsylvania.
“All applicants to our nursing program take a Nurse Entrance Test and must have completed high school algebra, biology and chemistry with a grade of C or better,” explained Clark. “We can offer those preparatory courses for students who may not have taken them. We can also offer nursing courses in Wayne County.”
Ms. Fries said WMH could work with LCCC to supply clinical instruction in service areas where it was possible. Other areas, including psychiatry, will need to be studied elsewhere, since WMH does not have a mental health inpatient unit.
Tuition costs at LCCC are about $8,000, said Ms. Clark, compared to close to $30,000 at many private colleges. LCCC has arrangements with some colleges to allow students to go on and complete their Bachelors degree –including Misericordia and Thomas Jefferson College— after two years at LCCC. That could mean a savings of roughly $22,000 a year per student.
What’s more, LCCC could cut its tuition by 50% if it can offer college or preparatory courses at the local high schools. (Clark noted that local teachers interested in teaching college courses must have advanced degrees in the subject they teach—a Masters in Biology, for example, rather than the more general Masters in Education.)
WMH also offers financial incentives. In addition to existing tuition reimbursement programs in return for work, the Hospital’s Chief Executive Officer David Hoff said he would also ask his Board of Trustees to support the development of classroom space, laboratory for clinical practice and the salaries and benefits of local nurse instructors to meet the needs of local students seeking nursing degrees through the program.
“We hope to begin this in September of 2010,” said Ms. Fries, “but the key is enrollment. We need at least 36 students to initiate the nursing program.”
The informational meetings—everyone is invited—are as follows:
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