Pueblo Community College announced it will create a Division of Nursing and add a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.

The division will begin operating July 1 under the leadership of Dean Paula Kirchner, interim director of the nursing program and a longtime PCC instructor.

Programs within the division will include nursing, surgical technology, psychiatric technician, medical assistant, nurse aide and certified addiction counselor.

“This is a big step for PCC. We are well positioned so that as we move forward with our Bachelor of Science degree in nursing, our dedicated team can focus on filling the skills gap in this vital profession,” PCC President Patty Erjavec said in a news release issued by the college. “We’re extremely fortunate to have Paula with us as we start this new division.”

According to the release, Kirchner graduated from PCC’s nursing program in 1994, earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Colorado State University-Pueblo in 2006 and a master’s degree from Regis University in 2011.

She was an RN at Parkview Medical Center for 22 years, 16 as nurse manager of the Kidsville Pediatric Unit. In 2011, she returned to PCC as a faculty member in the nursing program and has acted as interim director since October 2017.

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“I am excited about this new appointment and I look forward to leading our faculty and students into the next chapter of the PCC nursing program,” Kirchner said.

PCC’s other health and public safety programs will remain part of the Health and Public Safety Division under the leadership of Dean Mary Chavez.

“This change will allow Dean Chavez to focus more on helping the department bring on additional Bachelor of Applied Science degree programs,” Erjavec said.

The Colorado state legislature passed a bill in March allowing the state’s community colleges to offer bachelor degree completion programs in nursing in order to address a significant shortage of skilled nurses. PCC anticipates having its BSN program approved to begin in fall 2019.

Similarly, Pikes Peak Community College in Colorado Springs introduced in February its first Bachelor of Applied Science degree in emergency services administration starting in the fall, training “a new generation of leaders in the proactive strategic planning for disaster prevention and reduction,” according to a PPCC news release issued earlier this year.

Pueblo Community College will start a bachelor’s program in radiologic technology this fall and is seeking approval to offer bachelor’s degrees in its respiratory therapy and paramedic programs.