SPRINGFIELD – A new partnership between Illinois State University and Memorial Health aims to target the continuing shortage of nurses.
Earlier this month, the university’s board of trustees approved the lease of approximately 9,900 square feet of space from Memorial Health, which will also provide a donation to cover rent and operating costs, as well as additional educational resources.
This effort will allow ISU nursing students to complete the final two years of their degree at Springfield. The option should appeal to transfer students, a group for which the university currently has more demand than capacity, officials said.
The need for more nurses is something Judy Neubrander, dean of the Mennonite College of Nursing at ISU, has heard time and time again from the college’s health care partners.
“The message, loud and clear, is that we need more nurses,” she said.
This is a national problem that educational institutions and health care organizations across the country are working to address.
Employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 9% from 2020 to 2030, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Approximately 194,500 RN openings are projected each year over the decade. Many of the openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers leaving the profession, either by choosing a new career, retiring or leaving the labor force.
That need is especially strong in downstate and rural Illinois communities, said Marsha Prater, senior vice president and chief nursing officer at Memorial Health. These communities have aging populations that often live significant distances from hospitals.
“There is a really dangerous and difficult shortage of nurses,” she said.
Nurses are also the largest group of healthcare professionals, Prater said. She has worked in nursing for over 40 years and has never seen so many vacancies.
The new location will be at 200 N. Grand Avenue West, a former Shop ‘n Save, a few blocks from Memorial Health’s Springfield Hospital. The plan is to renovate it to include needed classrooms, labs and offices, Neubrander said.
The goal is to begin classes at the additional location in fall 2023. It is expected to accommodate about 48 students in year one and add another 48 in year two, Neubrander said. The location will only accommodate juniors and seniors, including transfer students from community colleges as well as those who began their studies at the regular ISU campus.
That can include recruiting high school students who then go to community college for two years before joining MCN, Neubrander said.
“We will admit them before they even go to community college,” she said.
Right now, MCN receives about 250 to 300 transfer requests but has room for less than 50 of them, Neubrander told the university’s board of trustees Aug. 15.
An additional goal with recruiting is to focus on Springfield and south-central Illinois, Neubrander and Prater said. Students at the Springfield location will also be eligible to receive a scholarship to help cover costs.
ISU President Terri Goss Kinzy said that while the university is already recruiting nationally, the additional location will likely contribute to the recruitment and shortage of nurses. She is happy with the move.
“I think it will increase our visibility in Springfield,” she said.
She also pointed to the location’s potential to deepen existing partnerships with community colleges.
While Memorial Health will help provide resources to teach students, MCN will have full control over academics.
“Clearly the college of nursing oversees the program 100 percent,” Neubrander said.
The sublease and most operational costs will come from a planned $6 million gift from Memorial Health to the ISU, which will be disbursed in installments over the next five years, provided certain enrollment measures are met. respected.
Memorial Health is also likely to benefit from the program by having students from its coverage areas learn at its facilities. Nursing students are more likely to stay in the area where they go to school and do their internships, Prater said. Memorial Health has more than 70 clinics and hospitals in Springfield, Decatur, Taylorville, Jacksonville and Lincoln.
Memorial Health will offer clinical rotations at these locations for nursing students, while allowing MCN to use its simulation labs. The labs provide valuable space for students to begin experiencing a clinical environment without any potential for harming anyone, Prater said.
On the ISU campus at Normal, an expanded simulation lab is under construction north of the Bone Student Center. The move is part of a plan to grow MCN from about 900 students to 1,200 to 1,500, Neubrander said.
The additional location will help the college expand beyond the capacity added by the nursing lab expansion, Kinzy said. All of this serves to address the shortage of nurses.
The two expansions started coming together around the same time, making it an exciting time for MCN, Neubrander said.
“It just provides an opportunity for the Mennonite College of Nursing to not just expand to Normal (…) but to go to another location,” she said.
Expanding services to address the nursing shortage is also something the college needs to do, she believes.
“I’m passionate that we need to do our small part to help the nursing shortage,” Neubrander said.
Photos: Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White over the years
Contact Connor Wood at (309) 820-3240. Follow Connor on Twitter: @connorkwood