On the heels of a national report projecting South Carolina will have one of the most serious nursing shortages in the country in the next decade, Piedmont Technical College is using the generous $170,000 gift it received late last year from the Self Regional Healthcare Foundation to support the graduation of more students into the pipeline of qualified nurses needed by area health care facilities.
If all goes according to plan, by this summer, transition nursing courses will be offered not only at the Greenwood Campus but on the college’s Laurens Campus as well.
“It’s an extension of our transition nursing program,” explained Tara B. Gonce, PTC’s dean of health care. “Our curriculum stays the same. This just opens up an additional route for those students to be able to transition in.”
According to a recent report from registerednursing.org, the need nationally for registered nurses is projected to spiral by 28.4 percent, to 3.6 million, by 2030. The organization’s recent report projected South Carolina to have the fourth highest RN shortfall, with an estimated 10,400 RN positions going unfilled. Anticipated shortages are escalating among licensed practical nurses and nursing assistants as well.
“Self Regional is firmly committed to addressing the growing shortage of nurses and working with partners like Piedmont Technical College to educate local talent and ensure that our community’s health care needs are met well into the future,” said Ken Coffey, executive director of Self Regional Healthcare Foundation.
Many students who have an interest in nursing careers are finding that the programs available have maxed out and cannot take any more students, usually because they lack enough qualified faculty to meet the demand. To date, PTC has hired one additional faculty member with the designated funds and is in the process of hiring a second.
“The Laurens Campus has everything the Greenwood Campus has, including simulation labs with mannequins, nursing lab and OB-Pediatric lab, classrooms and computer labs,” Gonce said. “We have been preparing for this and trying to mirror what we have here (in Greenwood). It has been a goal. We know based on guidelines of our national accrediting agency that this is needed and that we needed more faculty. The Self Foundation donation came at the perfect time to marry these two things together. Our goal became reality.”
Gonce believes the ideal, most seamless route to becoming an RN can be achieved in three phases. For example, high school students can opt for dual enrollment and earn a health care certification as well as a strong chance for acceptance into PTC’s competitive-entry programs. Next, they can earn their associate degree in nursing (ADN) in two years at PTC’s Greenwood or Laurens campuses. Then they can enroll in the ADN to BSN program at Lander University.
“Once dual enrollment students have their certification, they are program-ready. If I were a high school student now, this is the route I would take. It’s also the most financially sound route, just to not have student loans,” she said. “Once students get their ADN, many hospitals will offer tuition reimbursement if they want to go back and get their BSN.”
A key objective of the program expansion is to place PTC nursing graduates in jobs at local health care facilities like Self Regional Healthcare. Gonce said the college plans to open registration for transition nursing courses at the Laurens Campus in mid-April, and students could begin attending classes this summer.
“Self Regional Healthcare has always worked very closely with us,” Gonce said. “They offer a large majority of our clinical spots for our students. Without them, this would not have been possible. The donation they made gave us the push to be able to start the process. … We are hoping the financial contribution they gave will continue on.”