Southwest Colorado Community College announced Wednesday that it will expand its nursing programs and offer bachelor’s degrees in nursing through the University of Colorado.
“We’re excited for this partnership,” said SCCC Executive Dean Tonya Nelson. “It’s been a community need for six or seven years, so we’re glad to see it happen.”
The school will accept up to 16 applicants in its new licensed practical nurse program, a one-year certification, to start classes this fall, said Maggie LaRose, SCCC nursing faculty coordinator.
The application deadline is April 3, but the school will accept applicants until the program is full.
The school accepts 24 students in its registered nurse program, a two-year associate degree. The SCCC board approved the LPN program in February, LaRose said.
Also new at SCCC is a dual enrollment program through the University of Colorado that will allow nursing students to pursue a bachelor’s degree in the field, said Kathleen McInnis, director of Area Health Education Center.
Students will be able to obtain a bachelor’s degree six months after they complete their associate degree, McInnis said.
The nonprofit AHEC, based in Durango, aims to improve rural health services in Southwest Colorado. CU has agreed to pay for an AHEC staff member to travel to the SCCC campus one day a week to act as the nursing program advocate, McInnis said.
Through the CU partnership, nurses who have associate degrees and are working in the field may take classes at SCCC to obtain a bachelor’s, McInnis said.
“It’s really exciting,” she said. “The more bachelor’s-prepared nurses there are, the health and safety of the area goes up.”
Southwest Colorado has been the only area of the state that did not have a program that offered a bachelor’s in nursing, she said.
Carla Raney of the long-term care facility C&G Health Care Management in Cortez, said the company could use 10 to 12 nurses.
“We’d rather hire people from our community who have roots here,” she said.
Six people from C&G plan to participate in the SCCC program, Raney said.
SCCC is a satellite campus of Pueblo Community College. Speaking during a web broadcast from Pueblo, PCC President Patty Erjavec said students were grateful for the program expansion.
“Our students are well-aware of the gifts these partnerships are giving them,” she said.
PCC students will be tasked with caring for the older generation, Erjavec said, and they’re up to that challenge.
At the Pueblo campus, St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center, Parkview Medical Center and the Colorado Mental Health Institute are donating money, resources and space for the program expansion, said Health and Public Safety Dean Mary Chavez.
“It truly takes a village to keep a strong community moving forward,” she said.
The three partners have committed more than $3 million in cash and in-kind contributions for the Pueblo campus’ nursing expansion, Erjavec said.
Ron Hale, superintendent of the Colorado Mental Health Institute, said he was excited about the expansions because it would create a pipeline of nurses.
“The bottom line is this all translates to better care for our patients,” he said.