Monday, April 22, 2024

Program could remedy nursing shortage

Staff Report | April 3, 2024 1:07 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — Idaho State University and Kootenai Health recently announced the first cohort of students to the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing undergraduate program in the Coeur d’Alene area. The program was announced in 2023.

The first group of students incudes Maysun Bogart, Mose Duchano, Dakota Frei, Caitlin Kubale, Mckenna Mitchell, Jaden Preece-Sabrowski, Jessica Netzel, Joelle Netzel and Devon Toussaint.

“We are pleased to welcome these wonderful students to Kootenai Health,” said Kelly Espinoza, chief nursing officer for Kootenai Health. “We are committed to providing a learning environment that leads to the utmost success for these students, which ultimately translates into improved patient care for those we serve.”

Through the program, following completion of prerequisite courses, students with a bachelor's degree in another discipline are eligible to receive an accelerated education and training to become a nurse and receive their Bachelor of Science in nursing.

This ABSN program expansion to North Idaho addresses a growing demand across the state for nurses graduating with a baccalaureate degree, a press release said. Offering this program at Kootenai Health allows students to remain in North Idaho while they receive their training. 

Idaho State University’s program prepares students to take the required nursing exam, called the National Council Licensure Exam, and move directly into practice as a registered nurse.

More registered nurses are needed to support staffing and safe patient outcomes across clinical settings, and baccalaureate prepared nurses are in high demand in Idaho, according to the press release. Employers across Idaho’s rural areas have experienced difficulty filling vacant positions because of a national nursing shortage.

The Idaho Nursing Workforce Center at the Idaho Center for Nursing projects Idaho’s shortage of RNs ranges between 106-523 annually through 2024. Idaho’s nursing profession also faces retirements of a large number of the incumbent workforce, adding to the shortage. 

Currently, 29% of Idaho’s nurses are 55 years or older, 3% of those are 65 years or older. There is also an ever-increasing population of older adults. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 10,000 people turn 65 every day nationally, "which further increases the demand for compassionate and caring nursing care," the release said.

Increasing enrollment in nursing programs is one key strategy to address this growing issue in the state. The ABSN program at ISU offers the opportunity for individuals who hold a bachelor’s degree in another discipline to make a career change and enter the nursing profession. 

This program is three semesters, including one summer semester, in length. Courses in Coeur d’Alene will be delivered at the Kootenai Health campus and clinical learning opportunities will be provided to students across the Panhandle region, including urban and rural placements.

Idaho State University started its accelerated baccalaureate nursing program in 2002, consistently expanding to meet growing demand. More than 550 students have graduated from the program since its inception, many of whom remained in Idaho and now work as nurses. 

Pass rates on the national examination for RNs have been high, and students are employed across settings including hospitals, clinics, long-term care and public health among other areas, the release said.

“We are excited to have our first cohort of students at Kootenai Health, and understand that we could not have offered this innovative program without their support and collaboration,” said Teresa Conner, dean for the College of Health at ISU. “It truly opens doors for accelerated nursing education and the ability to address the critical nursing shortage in North Idaho.”