Michigan’s colleges and universities are working to address the state’s shortage of nurses, and now a new partnership in Northern Michigan will work to fast-track the process.
Students interested in careers in nursing now have a newer, faster, and less expensive way to get their bachelor’s degree. Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City is partnering with Davenport University to get the effort started this spring.
NMC Director of Nursing and Allied Health Tam Livengood says NMC chose Davenport as an exclusive partner “because we already have a relationship with them, there at the University Center.”
“I think the key change for this would be the expediency for achieving that degree,” Livengood says. “Students are going to have a support system that we’re developing from the time that they come in for a nursing assistant certification. They can go into an associate degree and then move right into a bachelor’s degree and they’re going to be supported all the way through.”
Whether they’re in the classroom or learning the skills hands on, NMC students can now fast track their education. They’ll spend two years at NMC for their associate’s degree, and another year at NMC through Davenport University to continue on to a bachelor’s degree.
“We’ll be able to condense that instead of over two years, they’ll be able to have a bachelor’s degree (BSN) in four semesters. So in concurrent enrollment, they will go from May until that following August, and they’ll be they’ll be finished with their bachelor’s degree,” she says.
“They’re going to get a quality education and they’re going to pass boards and they’re going to walk into a well-earning job with an incentive to start and then finish up with their bachelor’s degree within a year,” Livengood says.
The bachelor’s itself isn’t new, but the timeline is. NMC says it can help address the nursing shortage.
“COVID has been difficult for nursing. And how do we help people to who want to be nurses come back in and not be afraid to go back into the hospital? To take those positions, that they would be able to grow their skills all the way through. And then come out and start practicing at bedside nursing within as soon as they get their associate degree and then advance their professional skills,” Livengood says. “So there’s a lot of scary unknowns and ambiguity. I think this is going to allow us to be able to meet with them and bring people into the profession.”
“Just knowing that you have that next step, you don’t have to leave Traverse City. You can work at our local hospital. You can still continue to pursue your education and then move into some other opportunities.” Livengood says a BSN makes that possible. “When you have a bachelor’s degree, you could move into management, you can teach, you can work for the health department. There’s school nursing, so it opens up other professional opportunities for students as well. And they don’t have to leave Grand Traverse County region.”
“Where I’m doing my clinical now is very similar to a floor that I want to work at once I graduate, so it’s good to get kind of that early experience of what some nursing roles would be,” Ailee Jurkovich, a first-year nursing student, says. “I also work at Munson right now, so it’s really nice that I can get familiar with the hospital that I’m most likely going to be working at.”
Haven Hall is in her final year as nursing student, but is interested in continuing on for her BSN.
“I’m currently in the fourth semester, so I’ll be graduating this May. I’d like to keep going. I’m hoping to go on (after a bachelor’s) and get my nurse practitioner (certification),” Hall says.
The partnership offers a new way forward to the world of work. Students can graduate with their associate’s degree, then get a job out in the real world while also working on their bachelors at the same time.
“It’s a great opportunity to be able to work and go to school at the same time,” Hall says. “Being able to save money too is definitely a perk. So yeah, I mean, it’s a lot, but it’s definitely rewarding.”
Livengood adds, “It increases their earning potential and also allows them to use the skills that they’ve been developing and while in their education. After that, they can move into a position at Munson. They have a lot of incentives right now and we’re working on other incentives as well: how to make it easier for a student to work at the hospital to fill some of those gaps but still be successful in nursing school without overwhelming them.”
In the new program, students could earn their bachelor’s in as little as a year after earning their associate degree at NMC and passing the registered nursing licensure exam, the NCLEX. In 2022, 95 percent of NMC’s associate degree graduates passed it on the first attempt, exceeding both Michigan and national averages.
Under the legislative initiative, community colleges can receive up to $2 million in state funding. NMC plans to hire three new professional nursing support staff: an adviser/recruiter, who will guide students through the four stages of nursing credentials; a nursing student navigator who will provide tutoring support, and a researcher responsible for tracking student success through the completion of the BSN. Funds will also be used for new equipment, including virtual reality and simulation equipment, Livengood said. Another $100,000 will be dedicated to student scholarships.