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 Colleges Find Ways To Graduate More Nurses 

By Evelyn L. Kent
Community College Times
July 23, 2002
As the nursing shortage deepens and prognostications about a more dire healthcare future proliferate, community colleges are getting ever more creative in graduating more students.

Georgia Perimeter College in Atlanta graduates more nursing students than any other program in the state, including the Medical College of Georgia, according to Jenny Stephens, interim director of public relations for Georgia Perimeter.

The college recently expanded the program capacity to 150 students; and it still accepts only 15 percent of applicants, Stephens said. That expansion was into a still-growing consortium of colleges and universities called the Gwinnett University Center. Currently, Georgia Perimeter and the University of Georgia are the only two colleges involved, said Dawn Zillich, a spokeswoman for the college.

One of the goals of the program is to bridge the educational gap between the LPNs and the RNs. In Georgia, students at two-year technical colleges can earn an LPN but not an associate degree in nursing. Georgia Perimeter aims for LPNs who want to become RNs.

Since the program started in the mid 1960s, it has graduated more than 3,000 nurses. Part of that success is the partnerships the urban college has with area hospitals, which provide “everything from scholarships to books to equipment to faculty to practicum space,” Stephens said.

Georgia Perimeter also sends nurses to Honduras to teach nurses there such skills as how to conduct CPR, lobby for higher salaries and interpret electrocardiograms and other laboratory tests.

And the college is extending outreach to Hispanic patients in the area by making medical Spanish language an integral part of nursing curriculum. This summer, Georgia Perimeter sent three students and two faculty members to Costa Rica for a two-week lesson to learn intensive Spanish while living with host families and participating in a practicum in hospitals and clinics.

Lehigh Carbon Community College in Pennsylvania will double its number of nursing students this fall with a grant from the state, said Nancy Becker, dean of professional accreditation and curriculum and director of nursing. The Critical Skills grant will provide scholarships for 24 students, which Becker said will provide enough income for a corresponding increase in faculty.

To increase accessibility, the college will offer the additional classes at a second site that is about a 45-minute drive from the main campus. Some of the $147,000 grant will also go to train nurse’s aides and home care providers, Becker said.

The grant stipulates that the scholarships can go only to students who are in programs with durations of no more than a year. That means Lehigh Carbon will teach LPN students; and North Hampton College, which Lehigh Carbon is partnering with, will teach current LPNs who are seeking to become RNs. Students will complete clinical requirements in a variety of locations.

Elsewhere, the Colorado Community College System recently instituted a common course numbering system for all healthcare classes among all of its community colleges. Such a system makes transfer and articulation of degrees easier and increases accessibility to education, said Mary Beth Susman, vice president for education services at CCCS. 

“We want to increase enrollment in nursing programs by 20 percent,” Susman said.
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