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LTCC working to solve nursing shortage

Recognizing a national crisis in the works, the Lake Tahoe Community College has been doing its homework in respect to nurses’ training.

The college has been actively pursuing a way to adopt a program designed to train nurses.

Currently, the college has a one-quarter vocational program for certified nurse assistants, with the option of dedicating another 80 hours in a supplementary acute-care training program. This one-month program starts May 8.



But, it’s a training program for higher-level nursing professionals like LVNs and RNs that LTCC Director of Vocational Education Virginia Boyar would like to send into the workforce to address the pending national nursing crisis.

In a recently released federal study, Nevada ranked as having the worst nurse-to-population ratio in the nation. California came in second for the notorious distinction.



“We have found, like the rest of the state of California, a tremendous need for nurses,” Boyar said. “We found a potential crisis for nurses in our region.”

Barton Memorial Hospital’s Director of Hospital Operations Kathy Cocking has indicated that the medical facility hasn’t sounded a state of alert like other hospitals, but a nursing shortage may turn out to be too close for comfort once its nurses start retiring in five to 10 years. The average age of Barton’s registered nurse force is 46, a little older than the national average.

The college conducted a feasibility study last year for a registered nurse program that included a survey of local employers like Barton. The college received 100 surveys back, which reinforced its suspicion of the need in the overall region.

Money turned out to be a stumbling block, as buying the equipment alone makes developing most nursing programs cost-prohibitive.

“These nursing programs are unbelievably expensive. By the time you cut the purchase order on this equipment, it’s obsolete,” Boyar said.

The college has surmised it needs to team up with the hospital “to pull it off.”

“It’s something we’re still thinking about,” Boyar said. The college plans to meet with Cocking and Chief Executive Officer Bill Gordon to discuss its intentions.

Boyar may get a break.

A bill designed to help California Community Colleges increase nurse training programs is making its way through the Legislature.

The Workforce Training Act, authored by Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, and sponsored by the California Nurses Association, provides grants for the development of work-site based nurse training programs.

“A grant would make all the difference in the world,” Boyar said.

The measure passed the Assembly Higher Education Committee last week on a 9-1 vote. It’s expected to head to the floor of the California Assembly in June.

“California ranks 49th in the nation in the number of nurses per 1,000 residents. There is no doubt that understaffed hospitals threaten the quality of health care, so the state must take steps to help fill this need,” Jackson explained.

The bill corresponds with an increase in nursing education funding in Gov. Gray Davis’ proposed budget. Davis has recommended allotting $10 million in the California State University system and $5 million in California Community College programs to improve the quality of nursing education and increase the number of graduates.

Illustrating the need for more programs in the nation’s fastest growing state, the nursing school at the University of Nevada, Reno, has twice as many applicants as those they can accept in any given year.

As of March 2000, the total number of licensed RNs in the United States was estimated at about 2,600,000.


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