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Penn State Schuylkill forms partnership to address nursing shortage|
By Mary B. Waltman
| A partnership coordinated by Penn State Schuylkill Continuing Education and Penn State School of Nursing is helping alleviate a nursing shortage in the local area.|
The partnership, which also includes the Geisinger Medical Center and Danville High School, has made it possible for about 40 Danville area residents to pursue an associate degree in nursing. The degree program prepares them for the National Council of Learning Exam, administered by the State Board of Nursing. Those who pass the exam become registered nurses. Many of the part-time students, the majority of whom are employees of Geisinger Medical Center, would not be able to obtain the degree were it not for the part-time evening courses.
Penn State is meeting a great need in the community during this time of serious shortage of professional nurses, said David Holden, director of Continuing Education at Penn State Schuylkill. The partners pooled their resources to offer the program for the local residents. Its a win-win situation for all.
Holden collaborated with Dr. Margaret Mary West, DNSc, RN, campus coordinator for the Penn State School of Nursing in Danville, to launch the program. Geisinger Medical Center is one of the medical facilities where University Park campus nursing students may pursue their clinical training. Together, Holden and West gained the support of Geisinger Medical Center and Danville Area High School principal Margaret Auten, who offered the use of school classrooms and labs for science courses. Geisinger Medical Center helped meet the financial need of the students through tuition assistance.
Pointing out an interest and need in the local area, West said, The students are extremely motivated. They want to be nurses, are already committed to the area and may not have had the opportunity to continue their careers without this program option.
She and Holden reviewed more than 100 applications for the new program. Many of the applicants were already licensed practical nurses or had earned a number of credits toward a degree. Even though many of the adult students found it necessary to put their personal lives on hold for at least the next three years, West noted they were eager to pursue the program.
They are thankful for the opportunity, West said. Faculty members have remarked how delightful it is to teach students who want the educational opportunity. The collaboration between University Park, Danville and Schuylkill campus has turned out to be a wonderful opportunity to assist the nursing shortage in the area.
Instructor Ron Blatchley, who taught an Introduction to College Chemistry course, agreed the experience was positive for all involved. Since students often perceive chemistry as difficult, it was rewarding for Blatchley that many of the students who seemed anxious at the start of the course, finished with more confidence. Not once did they complain that the work was too hard or the grades too low, he said. I loved teaching them. Of the need for the program he added, My wife is an RN, and I am acutely aware of the nursing shortage.
Holden noted that Penn State Schuylkill is offering the necessary general education courses, while West is responsible for the nursing courses offered at the Geisinger Nursing Education Center. During the first semester of the program, held last spring, 42 students completed courses in English, biology and chemistry. The program employed five part-time adjunct instructors, approved by full-time Penn State faculty who reviewed instructors credentials, syllabi and textbook selection and serve in a general monitoring capacity.
A course in human development and family studies and one in math were also offered for the summer session at the Geisinger campus. By 2003, students should have completed the necessary general education courses and be ready to begin nursing courses at Geisinger Medical Center.
Both Holden and West agreed the program would continue to produce positive results, not only for Geisinger Medical Center, but also for the entire community. The students, already vested in the local area, will advance their professional status and enhance their personal lives, as well as meet the needs of the hospital and community. Already residents of the community, the new professionals will be more likely to remain and continue to add to the quality of life there.
Noting the opportunity for residents to increase their skills and prepare for a better future, Holden said, The program is a vivid example of how Penn State as a land-grant institution contributes to the life of the community it serves. Its the essence of Penn State commitment.
© 2002 Outreach Communications, Outreach & Cooperative Extension, The Pennsylvania State University
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