Beginning this fall, the University of Oklahoma’s College of Nursing will have a Duncan campus at Duncan Regional Hospital (DRH); an affiliation that was announced jointly by both organizations on May 11.

OU will offer bachelor’s and master’s programs at DRH: an RN-BSN program for nurses with associate degrees who want to earn their bachelor’s; and masters of science programs with a nursing major in education, nurse practitioner, or administration/management.

“This will be an OU degree so it will not be easy or simple, but it will be convenient,” said Dr. Carole Kenner, dean and professor for the University of Oklahoma’s College of Nursing.

“The only time a student should need to travel to Norman would be for commencement.”

The announcement comes just two months after DRH announced its partnership with Western Oklahoma State College (WOSC) in Altus to begin offering a two-year, associate degree nursing program (ADN) in Duncan, which will accept sophomore students in August of 2006 and first-year students in August of 2007.

Partnering with the two colleges to train nurses in the Stephens County area is a way to meet the growing shortage of nurses, said Cindy Rauh, vice president of patient care services for DRH.

“We’re very fortunate to have a wonderful LPN program at Red River Technology Center,” Rauh said.

“But our long-term goal has always been to offer associate, bachelor’s and master’s programs here at the hospital. This is just happening quicker than I anticipated.

“Dr. Kenner is a real visionary,” said Rauh. “She saw the need for it. She sees this as a good fit, and it is good timing for us.”

“We appreciate Duncan’s involvement,” Kenner said.

“We’ve seen this work in other locations. A good marriage between a university and a hospital will decrease the turnover rate.

“For a hospital employee, it’s the best of both worlds,” she continued. The opportunity is an incentive to employees wanting to continue their education, said Kenner. “Whether you’re ready for the next step on the ladder or just beginning your career, you can tailor you own path.”

DRH helps fund the tuition for its employees who are continuing their education, but Rauh said the programs are open to all.

“This is not just for DRH team members,” she noted. “This is for anyone wanting to pursue their education.”

Kenner said it is especially important for smaller hospitals, like Duncan’s, to work proactively to address a nursing shortage that is increasing nationwide. It’s not just nurses, but nurse educators, which are in short supply, said Kenner.

“It’s been an incredible year for us,” she recalled. “We had over 1,100 qualified applicants for 200 slots. It’s one reason we wanted to take the master’s program on the road.”

Carol Kendrix, director of allied health for WOSC, shared the observation.

“We had 50 qualified students who were turned away last fall due to a shortage of teachers and facilities. The classrooms only hold so many,” she said. DRH will offer programs to train both the entry-level and continuing nursing students, hopefully producing more RNs and nursing instuctors.

“The master’s program is an education pathway which will provide more nurse educators,” explained Patty Matney, director of student and alumni affairs for OU’s College of Nursing. “Eventually, we’re hoping to bring other pathways to Duncan.”

Kenner said having a satellite campus at a hospital like DRH is a “win-win” situation.

“We will increase enrollment and increase faculty members,” she said with confidence.

It will allow Duncan to “grow their own” nursing staff, and hopefully retain those nurses in and around the community, she said.

“This is exciting because it’s a way to keep the nurses at the bedsides while providing more education,” summed up Pat Notley, director of acute care services for DRH.

Kenner said that using a hospital as a classroom is “going back to what we used to do; almost going back to clinical immersion.” It will foster higher educational levels along with increased clinical experience, she said.

Recruitment of new nursing candidates needs to begin at the middle school level, said the OU dean and professor, who is also a member of the Governor’s Task Force researching the nursing shortage.

“Nursing is no longer something high school counselors talk about with students but the need is serious, especially in rural Oklahoma,” she said.

Reggie Pennypacker, education coordinator for DRH, said young students who think they might be interested should take math, science, chemistry and biology classes to prepare.

“If they do well in those high school courses, they can usually take some of the pre-requisite college courses while still in high school,” he explained. Kenner said the Duncan program will “give a person a chance to change their life circumstances. This makes it do-able.”

An associated nursing degree, which prepares a student for licensure as an RN, is a two-year program. The ADN-BSN program, a bachelor’s program for those already holding an associate degree in nursing, lasts nine months, with classes held one Saturday each month and additional clinicals. The length of a master’s program varies. Classes will be held one to six times per semester on weekday evenings after 4:30 p.m., for two to four hours per class.

“Most (students) will tell you they don’t love it while they’re doing it, but they’re thrilled when its completed,” noted Kenner.

Monday was the deadline to apply for WOSC’s associate nursing degree program at DRH, which is accepting only about a dozen sophomores for this fall. On Tuesday, Kenner will be in the conference center at Duncan Regional Hospital to review transcripts from 2 to 5 p.m. on a drop-in basis (no appointments will be made.)

The application deadline for the OU program is June 1. Some tuition help is available. For information, log onto the OU College of Nursing Web site: www.nursing.ouhsc.edu or call 1-877-367-FOROURN. Ask for Kenner or Kay Farrell.

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