$100,000 grant expands nursing education

Saturday, April 9, 2005

When Amy Holmes applied to Southeast Missouri Hospital College of Nursing last year, she had every reason to believe she would be accepted.

She was a straight-A student in high school, graduating salutatorian of her class. In fact, she said she never made a grade below an A from grade school on. Then one of her friends with similar credentials was accepted to the nursing school.

"So I thought I was definitely going to get into the program," said the 19-year-old Chaffee resident.

So when she got her letter telling her to try again next year, she was blown away.

"It was a really big let down," she said. "I guess there was such a long list of people that they couldn't take everybody."

"They're still applying, but we're full," said Dr. Tonya Buttry, president of the college. "Each year, there are people we can't admit even if they meet all the standards. We just don't have a place to put them."

With the announcement of a $100,000 grant this week, the college intends to accept more of those students into its program, welcome news for a health-care industry that is experiencing a nationwide shortage of nurses.

The college is one of six statewide to recently be awarded $100,000 grants by the Missouri Hospital Association's Center for Education. The grant will allow the college here to hire two new teachers over the next two years. The grant will also pay for a new science lab at the college's 2001 William St. location, where space is leased in a Bank of America building.

Both the nursing school and the hospital are owned by the Southeast Missouri Hospital Association.

The college expects that those changes will boost the number of graduates each year from 30 to 50.

The nursing school plans to start an evening and weekend track on Oct. 31, Buttry said. That will make it easier on people who work full-time, Buttry said. The college has already began taking applications.

Local hospital officials said any new nurses in the work force are welcome.

"Building capacity in our nursing schools is a critical element of addressing our long-term health care needs," said James Wente, president and CEO of Southeast Missouri Hospital.

Teri Kreitzer, director of human resources at Saint Francis Medical Center, agreed.

Kreitzer said that Saint Francis currently has five vacancies, which she said doesn't suggest dire need. But she said that the need has been more pressing in the past and may increase in the future.

The aging of the baby boomers and a growing number of nurses reaching retirement age have been cited by nursing and health-care organizations as the reasons for the shortage.

The American College of Healthcare Executives reported in October that 72 percent of hospitals across the country were experiencing a nursing shortage. According to association statistics, there will be 1.1 million registered nurse job openings from 2002 to 2012. At the same time, an estimated 125,000 applications are turned away from nursing education programs at all levels.

Mary Becker, a spokeswoman for the Missouri Hospital Association, said the grant money comes from hospitals across the state. She said hospitals are working together to fight the national nursing shortage. If nothing is done, it's only going to get worse, she said.

"Before, we had the problem that not enough people wanted to become nurses," she said. "Now, in Missouri as well as the nation, we don't really have enough capacity in the nursing schools. So anything we can do is a help."


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