The Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Beth-El College of Nursing and Health Sciences at UCCS is offering a new program that will enable registered nurses who already hold an associate’s degree to complete a bachelor’s degree online.

The nursing school has partnered with UCHealth Memorial Hospital to create the program. The first class, which will graduate in spring 2020, will consist of 24 registered nurses.

The program addresses the shortage of registered nurses in the Pikes Peak region and the local need for nurses who have earned a bachelor of science in nursing.

According to the UCCS Economic Forum, there were more than 1,372 unfilled jobs for registered nurses in the region in March.

“The Institute of Medicine in its 2010 seminal report ‘The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health’ recommended that 80 percent of the nursing workforce — particularly nurses at the bedside — have a BSN degree by 2020,” said Dr. Nancy Smith, dean of the College of Nursing. “This program will help to advance that goal for UCHealth Memorial.”

In addition, the program will enable Memorial Hospital to promote current employees into positions that require the bachelor’s degree. That in turn will help develop the local workforce and will strengthen the community partnership between the hospital and UCCS.

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The two organizations will share the cost of a liaison to support the program.

“I believe the only real way for us to solve the BSN nursing shortage in our community is to invest in education and expand the supply of registered nurses,” said Joel Yuhas, CEO of UCHealth Memorial. “Through the college, we see this initial class of 24 additional RN-to-BSN students as a step forward in a much broader relationship to come. The health and vitality of our community rests on partnerships like these that proactively address workforce needs.”

The partnership also assures that the nursing students will receive a high-quality education.

“Our nursing program is among the best in the state and has been a critical part of the local health care system for more than 100 years,” UCCS Chancellor Venkat Reddy said. “We are appreciative of UCHealth Memorial’s financial support in helping their registered nurses pursue the BSN degree program with us.”

The partnership builds on more than a century of nursing education by the college to address local needs.

The college was established in 1904 as the Colorado Conference Deaconess Hospital and Nurses Training School. It was renamed Beth-El Hospital and Training School in 1911 when it opened a facility at the current location of Memorial Hospital Central, and renamed Beth-El General Hospital and School of Nursing in 1922. The hospital and school were sold to the city of Colorado Springs in 1943, and in 1997, the college merged with UCCS after a voter referendum.

Registered nurses, certified nursing assistants, medical assistants and registered nurses are among the top 10 most sought-after employees in the Colorado Springs MSA. The region also has high numbers of job vacancies for software engineers and other IT specialists.

Read more about how local colleges are providing students with the skills that are needed locally and encouraging students to stay here after graduation in the May 11 edition of the Business Journal.