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 Community Colleges Are Primary Educators of RNs, Meet Area Needs 

From: Legislative Network for Nurses
Vol. 19 No. 24; December 16, 2002

Community colleges have been the “sleeping giants” of nursing education, Roxanne Fulcher, director of health professions policy at the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), told LNN.  That is, community colleges are the primary educators of registered nurses in the United States and, therefore, play a major role in helping to resolve the nursing shortage.  But they are often not recognized for this, Fulcher added.

Fulcher is directing AACN’s newly instituted three-year nursing and allied health initative to ensure that both the public and federal policymakers are aware of the role that community colleges have in educating the county’s health professions’ workforce and to address the shortage of both nursing and allied health professionals.

Additionally, AACC is working with deans and directors of programs that award associate degrees in nursing to pursue a “fair share” of Nurse Education Act funding that is directed to strengthen schools of nursing in recruiting students and faculty, Fulcher told LNN. 

Community colleges educate 60 percent of the nation’s NRs, according to data from the AACC. 

In addition to educating the majority of nurses entering the profession, associate degree nursing programs provide significant opportunities for students from underrepresented populations, Fulcher told LNN.

The numbers of minority students receiving associate degrees in nursing is increasing.  In 2000, 12.6 percent of associate degrees in nursing recipients were awarded to African Americans, compared to 7.1 percent in 1997.  In 2000, 7.4 percent of associate degrees in nursing were awarded to Hispanics, compared to 4.2 percent in 1997.

Additional, community colleges educated the majority of nursing professionals in rural areas, Fulcher said. Seventy-three percent of all nursing graduates in rural settings came from associate degree nursing programs. 

Meeting Community Needs

RNs educated by community colleges are more likely to stay in their communities to practice nursing, Fulcher said.

“This is borne out by the fact that 72.3 percent of RNs with associate degrees practice in the state where they graduated,” Fulcher told LNN. But only 5.6 percent of nurses with a Bachelor of Science degree practice in the same state.  This point is reinforced by the fact that 75.1 percent of associate degree nurses practice in the state where they received their first license. 
 
For more information, contact: Roxanne Fulcher, AACC, (202) 728-0200, ext.274.

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