CHI St. Vincent and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock joined forces today to address the nursing shortage in Arkansas.
Leaders at the two institutions signed a memorandum of understanding for a three-year initiative — the UA Little Rock/CHI St. Vincent Pathway Program — to expand student capacity in the UA Little Rock Department of Nursing and to fill the nursing staffing needs at CHI St. Vincent.
Under the agreement, UA Little Rock will recruit and educate an average of 40 students per year for the Pathway Program in an 18-month accelerated associate of applied science degree program. After completing the program, students will be prepared to obtain their RN licensure and begin a career at CHI St. Vincent.
“Quality nurses are a cornerstone of our ministry at CHI St. Vincent, and this partnership with UA Little Rock will ensure that we can continue to provide the community and our patients with excellent and compassionate care for years to come,” CHI St. Vincent CEO Chad Aduddell said. “Health care providers across the country are looking for ways to tackle this critical nursing shortage, and we see this investment in education as an important step toward preparing motivated students for an honorable and worthwhile profession in nursing.”
There’s a shortage of 700 nurses in central Arkansas alone, Aduddell said.
UA Little Rock Chancellor Andrew Rogerson said the collaboration with CHI St. Vincent is an excellent example of the symbiotic role between a metropolitan university and its community.
“Our pledge to central Arkansas and the entire state is to help address and solve the challenges our businesses and organizations face through educational opportunities,” he said. “UA Little Rock has collaborated with CHI St. Vincent for more than 50 years to educate nurses in central Arkansas. This newest initiative is yet another strategy to give more Arkansas students a pathway to a quality health education and to create a pipeline to a career beginning at a world-class health system.”
CHI St. Vincent will assist with financial support for hiring additional faculty and staff to create a greater capacity for UA Little Rock to admit more students.
“The current shortage of nursing and faculty is projected to increase, and we are working to change this situation today,” Aduddell said.
The first step is to increase capacity at UA Little Rock with additional faculty. Additionally, to increase affordable access to a nursing degree, UA Little Rock and CHI St. Vincent will award $2,500 per-semester to each Pathway Program student, which will cover the cost of the accelerated program.
Pathway program graduates will join the nursing staff at CHI St. Vincent for a minimum of 24 months. The first 40 students will enter the Pathway Program this fall.
“This agreement is like the trifecta,” Rogerson said. “First and foremost, it’s a win for Arkansans in need of quality patient care. It’s also a win for increasing student capacity at UA Little Rock and patient capacity at CHI St. Vincent, plus a win for students seeking a rewarding career in a high-demand field.”
The program comes at a time when the vacancy rate for RNs continues to rise across the state and nation. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, nearly half of the RNs in the country will reach traditional retirement age by 2020. At the same time, the demand for healthcare is expected to rise rapidly between now and 2024 as baby boomers are aging and living longer. The demand for nurses is expected to grow by 16 percent, while higher education programs are having difficulty recruiting enough faculty and staff to meet the educational demands.
Photo: Chancellor Andrew Rogerson discusses the UA Little Rock/CHI St. Vincent Pathway Program, which is designed to address the nursing shortage in Arkansas. Photo by Lonnie Timmons III/UA Little Rock Communications