Nursing program earns grant from Kansas Board of Regents

The Kansas Board of Regents awarded nearly $3.4 million in nursing grants today to 20 public institutions of higher learning, including a total of $135,812 to the Department of Nursing at Fort Hays State University.

Institutions with registered nurse programs were eligible to apply to the Regents for the grants, which were approved by the Kansas Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius earlier this year as part of a 10-year Board of Regents initiative to address the critical nursing shortage in the state of Kansas.

FHSU received $100,000 for renovation of facilities to create a new patient simulation center and $35,812 for 10 Nurse Educator Scholarships.

Dr. Liane Connelly, chair of the FHSU Department of Nursing, said she was pleased that the Legislature and the Board of Regents had taken a leadership role in addressing the nursing shortage.

"FHSU will be able to address the nursing faculty shortage through the master of science in nursing scholarships for those individuals who wish to become nurse educators in the state of Kansas," she said. "In addition, we are already planning to increase our capacity for the bachelor of science in nursing degree starting this fall semester."

She said the creation of the FHSU Simulation Center would also be an essential piece in developing future BSN-prepared nurses. "The new center will allow student nurses to have high quality clinical experiences in the laboratory before they provide care to patients in their clinical courses," Connelly explained.

The 2005 Legislature, concerned about the nursing shortage, asked the Regents what resources would be required to increase registered nurses by 25 percent. The Legislature also asked the Regents for a timeline to build an infrastructure that would accommodate up to 250 more nursing students annually.

Among the causes for the nursing shortage in Kansas is an increased utilization of the health care system by an aging population at the same time many existing nurses will be retiring. The Kansas Department of Labor has predicted that 6,890 new registered nurse positions will be needed by 2010 to meet the workforce demand. An additional 4,460 RN replacement positions will be needed due to retirements, for a total projected need of 11,350.

Virtually every nursing program has an extensive waiting list of qualified applicants. Increasing capacity in nursing programs is a complex process that consists of acquiring additional qualified nursing faculty, securing additional clinical instruction sites, and increasing classroom space and equipment.

"These grants represent an exciting first step in a 10-year commitment to addressing the critical nursing shortage facing the state of Kansas," said Reginald L. Robinson, president and CEO of the Board of Regents. "The Legislature must be commended for its commitment to and recognition of this important issue. This program powerfully demonstrates how the state's higher education institutions play a vital workforce development role in Kansas."

The Regents' 10-year nursing initiative is a three-part, $30 million plan that ultimately aims to increase nursing capacity in Kansas by 25 percent. Of the $30 million total cost, $22 million will come from state appropriations while $8 million will be committed through matching funds by the participating educational institutions.
Some of the other Regents awards included:

* Barton County Community College, $75,271;
* Colby Community College, $74,372;
* Dodge City Community College, $9,675;
* Emporia State University, $101,400;
* Garden City Community College, $160,211 (for an advanced skills simulation laboratory that will be part of a collaborative partnership among Garden City, Dodge City, Colby and Seward County Community Colleges;
* Kansas University Medical Center, $126,508;
* North Central Kansas Technical College, Hays Campus, $218,161;
* Pittsburg State University, $502,244;
* Pratt Community College, $123,310;
* Washburn University, $205,611;
* Wichita State University, $349,797.

Once the proposals funded by these grants are fully implemented, the state's nursing programs will be able to increase nursing program capacity by more than 500 additional nursing students and realize the potential for additional nurse educators, thanks to the scholarship program.

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