Nursing programs open enrollment, aimed at shoring Alaska health workforce

Woman getting her blood pressure checked by a nurse. (Cropped Photo: Jen Rynda / CC BY 2.0)
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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Two new partnering programs at Alaska Pacific University have opened up enrollment for the upcoming semester, with the goal of beefing up the number of trained nurses and health care professionals in the state.

Previously, officials at UAA said they have observed a shortage of registered nurses in the state, with some notable areas that were hurting for qualified medical staff.

Marianne Murray, director for UAA's School of Nursing, said, "Our small rural areas where we have our critical access hospitals, some of them are staffed with a lot of traveling nurses or nurses from other states because we don't have the Alaskan graduates to actually fill the spots."

Now, Alaska is seeing some new partnerships with programs which may help beef up the nurse numbers, however APU would grab students rather than UAA.

According to Michelle Weston, a spokesperson for APU, two new programs are designed to "meet the growing demand for a culturally competent and sustainable healthcare workforce in our state."

The first program, termed the "AK Bridge" program, is aimed at incentivizing studying at APU for those who already have their RN license, to help them acquire their bachelor's degree in nursing.

Esther Sullivan, Academic Dean at APU, said the AK Bridge RN to BSN program will entice students to complete their BSN, as it "combines high-quality, relevant coursework with a culminating senior project, ensuring that students can tailor learning outcomes to their individual interests."

The application process is available now until Mar. 15, 2018, when applications are due. APU says applicants must hold an unencumbered RN license and be in compliance with state Nurse Practice Acts at all times during the program

The second program focuses on something UAA also indicated was especially lacking right now - nursing in rural areas. APU noticed the deficiency in rural Alaska care, and has devised a program that combines the Community Health Aide program, with an Associate of Applied Science certificate to expand numbers of healthcare practitioners across remote parts of the state.

Students in the community health program can do almost all of their coursework online for those in rural communities, as well as participate in training sessions in their local village clinics.

According to Robert Onders, the interim president at APU, the goal of this program is to "allow for education at a distance or with shorter periods of time in Anchorage, and are culturally relevant to the communities the students will be serving."

Whether enrollment will really see an uptick, and whether those newly certified practitioners will remain in the state following the bulk of their education here, remains to be seen. However, both UAA and APU agree that the need for one, if not both, of those to happen is significant.

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