Regents OK nursing effort |

Regents OK nursing effort

by Geoff Dornan

ELKO — A proposal designed to double the number of nursing students in the university system was approved by the Board of Regents on Wednesday.

Julie Johnson, director of Orvis School of Nursing at the University of Nevada, Reno, said the Legislature asked the system to come up with the plan to solve a growing shortage of trained nurses in Nevada.

Doreen Begley of the Nevada Hospital Association said the problem is Nevada’s rapid growth rate, which has left the state with the lowest number of nurses per capita in the nation. She said the hospitals desperately need the added nurses to provide services.

Johnson said the problem is that the existing schools don’t have the room to handle the number of people who want to become nurses. She pointed out that Orvis School had 81 applicants for the fall 2002 semester but only 48 available positions. She said a grant will add 20 more positions but that is money which can’t be relied on in the future.

“We cannot continue to rely on soft money,” she said, telling Regents they need to ask the Legislature for more money to support nursing programs.

The biggest change the proposal recommends is operating the nursing schools through the summer.

“Currently, clinical agencies are at capacity during the school year but almost empty in the summer,” she said.

She said it will not be possible to double the number of nursing students coming out of Nevada’s university system without state funding for summer school.

The plan also calls for expansion of the two-year program at Great Basin College in Elko into a four-year nursing school.

The estimated cost of the plan is $11.99 million over the next two years and $15 million for the following two years. The biggest share of those costs, she said, is to add the staff needed for the summer sessions.

If the plan is implemented, Johnson said it would increase the number of nursing students in Nevada’s schools from 656 in 2000-01 to 1,443 in 2006-07.

Chancellor Jane Nichols said the $27 million total cost of the plan is much lower than earlier estimates.

“We have worked very hard to create a plan that is reasonable in cost,” she said.