Starting this fall, a program at Stephens College will allow freshmen to begin their education as nurses.
The program, a partnership with Boone Hospital Center, will accommodate up to 24 students who will have classes with Stephens nursing faculty and clinical experiences at the hospital.
The curriculum is designed for students to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Stephens College in three years and two summers. The summer semesters will provide students more clinical hours, said Noreen Houck, the founding director of nursing at the college.
Houck called the program modern and innovative and said it helps nurses take a person-centered approach to health care.
The program focuses on early access to clinical experiences for nursing students. Before entering the program, students are able to take the patient care technician program at Boone, said Julia Moffitt, dean of the School of Health Sciences at Stephens.
“It just gives them more exposure to nursing,” Moffitt said. “They don’t have to wait until their last year or two for clinical exposure — they get to start having clinical experiences right away.”
Students in the program will be required to have 844 direct clinical hours and 191 simulated clinical hours — 1,035 applied clinical hours in total. Boone has an on-site simulation lab.
“The simulation experiences will be real-time things that are happening that students need to learn about right now,” Moffitt said.
As of January, central Missouri had 3,906 working registered nurses and 410 vacant registered nurse positions, according to the Missouri Hospital Association’s 2020 Workforce Report. The association reported a 9.5% vacancy rate for registered nurses, which is high across all hospital professions.
The program will contribute nurses to “the whole pipeline to help treat and care for our patients in our community,” Moffitt said. That’s important, she said, given that the nursing shortage is “one of the biggest obstacles in getting individuals access to health care” and that nurses have the most direct patient care contact.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the employment of registered nurses is expected to grow 12% from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for other occupations. One goal of the Stephens program is to graduate nurses to help meet that acute need, Houck said.
In light of COVID-19, “they are going to be ready to handle the challenges that our society has with patients with infectious diseases,” Houck said of the students. “It also means ready for the changes in a health care system that’s more complex and more dynamic. Students will be active in health care policy and will understand health care from a global perspective.”
Students finishing the program, Moffitt said, will “be ready to hit the floor and help patients right away.”
As things stand, Stephens plans to have face-to-face classes this fall — subject to change based on public health guidelines, spokesperson Rebecca Kline said.