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UCCS nursing builds bonds with community colleges

smorley2@uccs.edu

Published: Monday, October 28, 2013

Updated: Monday, October 28, 2013 02:10

     Nursing programs across the country are experiencing influxes in applicants.

     According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nursing field should see dramatic growth through 2020. The UCCS nursing program is working with community colleges around the state to encourage and facilitate the growth.

    There are three educational models for nursing education in the country: the first is an association degree program, which involves community colleges, the second is diploma schools and the third is a four-year program.

     There are no more diploma schools in Colorado, but UCCS offers a bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral program in nursing.

     “[We are] one of two colleges that are nationally ranked in nursing in Colorado. Our graduate programs are nationally ranked by the U.S. News & World Report,” said Nancy Smith, dean and professor of UCCS nursing.

     In 2010, the National Institute of Medicine released a report stating that there was a national recommendation for nurses to receive a bachelor’s degree.

     “The quality of care given by nurses who have baccalaureate degrees in nursing show that the patients [have] better health outcomes,” Smith said.

     The recommendation also stated there should be 80 percent of registered nurses at bedsides by 2020. In order to encourage nurses to obtain bachelor’s degrees, UCCS has established partnerships with community colleges around the state, such as Pikes Peak Community College.

     Mary Nifong, the nursing program director at PPCC, often visits and collaborates with the UCCS nursing staff. “We plan clinicals, clinical orientation and the computer training. We do all that together so we all know where we’re supposed to be,” she said. Students from PPCC also attend simulation labs at UCCS.

     “We’re … building more of a collaborative attitude with the community,” Ben Galatzan, adult nursing instructor, said. “We do a lot of medical simulations. We usually run high-risk, low-volume things so that if [the students] make mistakes, it’s OK.”

     The simulation lab, which is almost identical to a real hospital, features various mechanical patients, ranging from an adult to children and a baby.

     The patients have mechanisms that allow them to speak, blink and gush fluids. Cameras and microphones are in the medical rooms so instructors can observe how students treat emergency situations.

     UCCS is also working with community colleges in Southern Colorado. “When [the recommendation] began, we were trying to figure out good ways to increase the number of nurses that have bachelor’s degrees in Southern Colorado. There are very limited bachelor’s programs in Southern Colorado,” Smith said.

     Smith contacted Sandy Summers, director of nursing and allied health programs at Lamar Community College, and formed a partnership.

     Other partnerships include Otero Community College and Pikes Peak Community College. “Now we have agreements with every nursing program in Southern Colorado,” Smith said.

     Because of these agreements, UCCS and various community colleges streamline their curricula so that students can enroll in both associate and bachelor’s degree programs at the same time.

     “Last year, we had the very first graduate who graduated from Lamar in May with an associate’s degree and graduated from UCCS in August with a bachelor’s,” Smith said.

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