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ISU Hopes To Help Fill A Need For Nurses

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Christopher Gannon/Iowa State University
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Iowa State University

Iowa State University, responding to a growing shortage of registered nurses, has hired Dr. Virginia Wangerin to direct a new nursing education program.  The program will enroll nurses holding associate degrees and graduate them with Bachelor of Nursing degrees.

It will be administered by ISU’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, headed by Dr. Ruth MacDonald.

“We were approached by DMACC (Des Moines Area Community College),” said MacDonald.  “There’s increasing demand for the BSN credential.”

Hospitals and other health care settings, responding to a shortage of registered nurses, are hiring nurses with a two-year associate’s degree, despite admitting that additional college education improves health care outcomes.

The state’s largest nurse employer, The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, has abandoned hiring only BSN nurses. 

“Over the past year, as we have liberated our qualification, to accept associate degree nurses into our organization, we have also put in place some pretty rigorous reimbursement plans for people to go back and get their BSN,” says Emily Wynn, UIHC Interim Associate Chief Nursing Officer.

UIHC employs more than 3,000 nurses, but despite recent hiring success, still has more than 300 vacancies.  Some of those are new positions created to meet increasing patient numbers.

Iowa State University’s new BSN program involves on-campus classes. The University of Iowa offers an Associate to BSN program using internet classes.

Nurse profession leaders all cite research data showing optimal health care outcomes when the provided by nurses with advanced education degrees. However, University of Iowa College of Nursing Interim Dean, Thad Wilson, says there are sufficient faculty nurses and hospital sites for practical clinical experience to produce more BSN graduates.

“We have, on average over the last five years, around 240 and 250 applicants for the fall admission of 72 students,” says Wilson. “So, we turn away two or three for every one that we let in. And that’s about the norm that you find across the United States. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing indicated that in 2016, 50,000 people who applied did not get accepted across the United States.”