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Nursing School aims to deepen, diversify nursing pool
Joint effort takes two-pronged approach

By Dan Heuchert

A nurse cares for a baby in the newborn intensive care unit.
Courtesy of Health System Marketing & Communications
A nurse cares for a baby in the newborn intensive care unit.

Virginia is currently experiencing a 10 percent shortage in its nursing workforce, and that figure is expected to rise to 36.4 percent by 2020, threatening access to health care across the Commonwealth, according to figures compiled by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The School of Nursing has received a three-year, $651,153 federal grant to fund a collaborative effort aimed at deepening and diversifying the local pool of professional nurses. Most of the funding, from the Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration, will boost faculty resources at the Nursing School and at Piedmont Virginia Community College.

Local hospitals, including the U.Va. Medical Center, Martha Jefferson Hospital, Augusta Medical Center and Western State Hospital, will also provide resources to support the clinical training of additional nursing students.

“This is the first time that a partnership in problem-solving for nursing has included the U.Va. Medical Center plus the regional health-care institutions that are the consumers of nursing education,” said Judith K. Sands, associate professor of nursing and project director for the grant.

The grant seeks to increase the number of professional-level nurses through two paths: increasing admission to a two-year program in the School of Nursing for those who have received bachelor’s degrees in other fields; and encouraging certified nurse aides, or CNAs, to seek additional training through courses at PVCC, which will offer new night and weekend classes.

Graduates of both the U.Va. Nursing School and PVCC’s program are qualified to sit for a licensing examination to become registered nurses.

The grant will boost the Nursing School’s annual enrollment of second-degree candidates from 32 to 48.

This is the 13th year that the school has offered a second-degree program to students with bachelor’s degrees in other fields. The grant will also allow the school to revamp its curriculum to make it more attractive for working students, although it will still require a full-time commitment, Sands said.

Second-degree students are older than those who enter the school as first-years, she said, and a higher percentage remain in the community after earning nursing degrees.

The grant also seeks to identify promising CNAs in the local community, encourage them to enter PVCC’s nursing program and offer them mentorship. CNA positions are considered entry-level on this nursing career ladder, with most CNAs having a high school diploma and receiving their training either in vocational education programs or through programs offered by some hospitals.

Piedmont’s schedule expansion will allow it to graduate an additional 20 to 30 registered nurses each year, most of whom will remain in the local community, said PVCC President Frank Friedman.


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