By Mary Heinrich
West Virginia University School of Nursing and United Hospital Center have joined forces to combat the shortage of nurses plaguing the state. They are offering people with a bachelor’s degree in another field the opportunity to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in just 18 months.
The Bridgeport campus of WVU School of Nursing is accepting applications until July 1 for students to fill its first class for the spring of 2023.
The pandemic put a spotlight on a problem that those in the nursing profession have known existed for about 20 years. There are not enough nurses. Veronica Gallo, WVU School of Nursing professor, said there are several reasons for this shortage, including an aging population among both the general population and the nursing pool. This means there are more people in need of care and less people available to care for them.
Gallo also said there are several new opportunities available for trained nurses, including spas, case management, in-home care, and hospice. This leaves a lack of nurses for traditional bedside nursing needs.
Another reason for the shortage of nurses highlighted by COVID-19 is burnout. According to Gallo, nurses struggle with burnout even when there is no worldwide pandemic.
The WVU and UHC endeavor will be a brand-new solution taking a page straight from the history of nursing. In nursing’s early days, hospitals did their own training. As colleges and universities became more prominent across the country, the educating of nurses was gradually turned over to them. Gallo said the new program is “a very exciting” mashup of the two strategies.
UHC will be responsible for providing classrooms and opportunities for student clinicals, while the education students receive will mirror that received by students in Morgantown.
The fifth floor of the newly constructed east wing of UHC will be the home of the nursing classes, according to a press release submitted by the hospital. This 5000-square foot wing will house two classrooms, a skills lab, conference rooms, a student lounge, and offices.
This project is the fourth of WVU’s satellite nursing programs. There are existing programs in Charleston, Beckley, Keyser, and the primary program in Morgantown.
Gallo said each of these endeavors is held to the same standard of education as the on-campus program. They learn the same skills, are trained to maintain the same attitude, and are required to take the same board exams. But the alternative classroom options allow students who prefer a smaller classroom, who are uncomfortable with the traditional college experience, or who are unable to transfer to Morgantown the opportunity to obtain a bachelor’s degree.
Bridgeport’s fast-tracked program is a new strategy. Because the 24 students who will be accepted into the classes each year will already hold a bachelor’s degree, this degree will consist of 66 credits of solely nursing classes and will only require 18 months to complete. This will offer people the opportunity to change careers with minimal time requirement.
Wendy Holdren, director of communications and marketing for WVU School of Nursing, calls this “a great partnership between WVU and UHC.” Both Holdren and Gallo said that one of the major strengths of this union is that clinical opportunities will be immediately available to students.
“This program is a national program housed right in the hospital,” Gallo said. “Students can walk right out of the classroom, and, boom, you’re in your clinicals.”