College, Hospitals Launch Fast-Track Nursing Program


As the Arizona nursing shortage continues, Grand Canyon University is joining with the Hospital Council of Southern Arizona to offer a fast-track nursing degree program in Tucson.

Grand Canyon University, a private Christian college based in Phoenix, plans to enroll 60 to 90 students in the first year, said Fran Roberts, dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences. Local hospitals will sign up to sponsor the students, underwriting their tuition in hopes of hiring them after graduation.

While the new 20-month program will help ease the shortage, Southern Arizona hospitals will need more than 2,400 new registered nurses by 2010, according to the Hospital Council. A regular nursing program takes a student through four years of classes.

The first fast-track class has begun and enrollment is open for the class that begins in May. To get through the program quickly, eligible students must have already completed 90 hours of prerequisite classes or have a bachelor's degree, Roberts said.

Students pay an entry fee that goes toward books and supplies, and they take their classes in one of nine partner hospitals in Tucson and Nogales. When they graduate, they will have guaranteed job opportunities.

The program is a first for area hospitals, which previously competed with each other for their work-force needs but now are working together in this "industry and education alliance," said Stephanie Healy, council president.

A formal announcement was made Thursday at the Arizona Association for Economic Development forum on health care in Tucson.

The shortage of nurses has been made worse by the lack of training programs, not a lack of interest, Roberts said.

"There was for many years a dwindling interest in nursing, and within the last five years, word has gotten out that it's a tremendous profession," Roberts said.

Registered nurses in the Tucson metro area earn an average $54,680 a year.

The Hospital Council hopes to line up contracts for similar fast-track programs with Pima Community College and Tempe-based Rio Salado College in the first half of the year, Healy said.

"The program we're implementing is a pilot, and we understand it won't end the shortage," she said. "We're just hoping to alleviate the shortage, and build a program to address future needs and expand the capacity."


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