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Educators Join Forces to Address Nursing Shortage in Iowa, Nation

DMACC charges $150 per credit hour for nurses' training, while the University of Iowa's rate is $397. (suyizailushang/Pixabay)
DMACC charges $150 per credit hour for nurses' training, while the University of Iowa's rate is $397. (suyizailushang/Pixabay)
October 5, 2017

DES MOINES, Iowa -- The nursing shortage in Iowa and across the country is getting the full attention of two educational institutions: Des Moines Area Community College and the University of Iowa.

In an agreement announced this week, prospective nurses can take their first three years of schooling at DMACC, then transition to the University of Iowa for a final year of online training. The agreement dramatically reduces the cost of obtaining a bachelor's degree in nursing.

Julie Zerwic, dean of the University of Iowa College of Nursing, said this is one way to attract highly skilled workers to the field.

"Because you can imagine if someone comes out with an associate degree from the community college, and they have this seamless path where they can go right in to get their baccalaureate degree, we are going to get people seeing their education as really a pathway that they continue to journey down,” Zerwic said.

Before this agreement, students who wanted more than an associate's degree in nursing had to seek out a four-year college after completing two years at DMACC, essentially doubling the per-credit-hour cost of their education. The state and nation are not only in need of nurses to care for an aging population, the nursing workforce is seeing a surge of retirements and not enough people to fill those positions.

Zerwic said increasing the number of nurses who have bachelor's degrees rather than associate’s degrees is beneficial to more than the nurses themselves.

"We know from a number of studies that have been done that an organization that has a higher percentage of baccalaureate-prepared nurses actually has improved outcomes for patients,” she said.

The American Nurses Association projects there will be 100,000 registered nurse jobs available annually through 2022 - far more than any other profession. Zerwic noted there aren't enough nursing professors either, but more seamless and affordable nursing education options can also help address that challenge.

Kevin Patrick Allen, Public News Service - IA