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BSU gets grant to continue expanding nursing program

Bemidji State University's effort to continue developing of a four-year, generic baccalaureate nursing program has received a $175,000 boost.

The support came from Legislative Initiative Funds dedicated for expanding nursing programs and allocated to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, a BSU news release states. BSU's proposal was one of two funded statewide.

The grant will allow the university to hire a program director and purchase learning materials needed to meet the requirements of the Board of Nursing approval process. Once board approval has been obtained, BSU's Department of Nursing will pursue external grants to fully fund the remaining costs of full implementation, the news release states.

If all goes according to schedule, the program is expected to begin in the fall of 2007 and graduate the first new registered nurses in the spring of 2011, the news release adds.

Riki Scheela, chair of the Department of Nursing, said she is thrilled with the grant.

"We are very exciting about this program," Scheela said. "It will produce new registered nurses to help address the ever-deepening nursing shortage."

Graduates of the program will possess added skills related to care of American Indian clients and the complexities of rural health strategies, according to the news release. They will also be eligible for certification as public health nurses, be prepared to take the examination offered by the Minnesota Board of Nursing to become registered nurses, and qualify for employment opportunities to provide professional nursing care for individuals, families and communities.

The new baccalaureate program will augment BSU's nationally accredited registered nurse completion program, according to the news release.

"This will be a nice addition to the program we already have," Scheela said.

She said the two-year program currently offered by BSU is open only to registered nurses seeking a baccalaureate degree. While this program will continue at BSU, she said students in a four-year nursing program will be able to do all their schooling in one place.

"We've been finding that a lot of students don't want to go to a couple of different schools," Scheela said.

She noted that many of the students who would enroll in the four-year nursing program would likely come right out of high school, unlike the current program offered by BSU.

According to the news release, MnSCU institutions have turned away hundreds of eligible students wishing to pursue a traditional four-year nursing program. Meanwhile, workforce data show that the increased demand for nurses along with an aging workforce is contributing to a growing nursing shortage in Minnesota.

A database started by BSU in the fall of 2004 now contains more than 440 names of students and families requesting a generic nursing program, according to the news release.