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UVSC to expand nursing school

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OREM — Jobs in nursing will likely abound until there's a cure for the common cold.

And advanced training for this much-needed occupation — which is now in dire need of more skilled, licensed practitioners — will start soon at Utah Valley State College.

Courses leading to a four-year nursing degree will start at UVSC in January. The school is now accepting applications for the first year of the program, which is designed for registered nurses who want to earn a bachelor's degree but need to continue working while they study.

The UVSC program hopes to fill a gap in nursing education created when Brigham Young University's four-year nursing program stopped accepting students who have an associate's degree from a college other than BYU.

The rule is meant to encourage nurses from two-year programs at UVSC, BYU-Idaho, Weber State University, Westminster College and the University of Utah to start working as soon as possible to help ease the state's nurse-shortage woes.

But the rule has made it difficult for working nurses in Utah County to obtain additional education that will help them earn management positions, said Alene Harrison, assistant dean of the school of science and health at UVSC.

The deadline for student applications is Sept. 28. Competition in the limited-enrollment program — only 20 students will be accepted annually — will be fierce, says Harrison.

Admission requirements include an associate's degree in nursing, which UVSC offers, licensure as a registered nurse in Utah and completion of classes in microbiology, chemistry, human development, human physiology and anatomy.

Points are given to applicants according to job skills, qualifications and previous grades in medical and science classes. Those with the highest scores will gain entrance.

RN's seeking the degree can continue to work at hospitals and home-health systems. The nursing shortage won't be helped if classes are held during the day, Harrison said.

"We'll do some creative scheduling so they can keep working while they are taking classes," said Harrison, who also oversees the first two levels of nursing education at UVSC.

Data indicate there's a growing demand for RN's with four-year degrees. Those with bachelor's degrees are said to be better prepared to meet challenges as managers and case workers as health-care systems change in 21st century.

A 1996 report by the Division of Nursing of the Department of Health and Human Services recommended that at least two-thirds of the nursing workforce hold bachelor's or graduate degrees by 2010.

Lynn Flinders, division director for family and personal health services at Utah County's Health Department, said nurses with bachelor's degrees are more qualified to assume administrative and management positions.

They also earn more money. According to a UVSC survey of Utah County health-care companies, the average starting salary for nurses with associate degrees ranged from $11.50 to $16.35. The average beginning pay for nurses with bachelor's degrees ranged from $12.60 to $18.

UVSC plans to seek national accreditation for the program.

E-mail: jeffh@desnews.com