Ivy Tech plans for nursing expansion

The Ivy Tech Community College system is planning to add a total of 600 seats to nursing programs across the state by 2025 – including 20 new openings at the Columbus campus for students seeking an associate’s degree.

School officials discussed the expansion at a Tuesday campus board meeting. The change comes as a result of a $ 8.75 million grant that Indiana University Health recently awarded Ivy Tech to help the college system expand its nursing program and increase nursing student enrollment.

“We went into the pandemic already in a nursing shortage,” said Danielle Robinson, who is Ivy Tech Columbus’s School of Nursing Dean. “And nurses are an aging group, so we have more retirements than we have people filling places, and now we just need even more nurses. And we’re seeing a lot of burnout with nurses leaving the profession. So we saw this as an opportunity, that we can increase our enrollment and increase the number of RNs (registered nurses) in Indiana. ”

The grant will be used to fund investments such as educational equipment, recruitment and compensation of new faculty and staff and support services for students. It is estimated that these investments will require about $ 8.7 million in recurring costs over three years and an additional $ 12 million in one-time costs.

At Ivy Tech Columbus, total recurring costs are estimated at a little more than $ 475,000, with non-recurring costs at about $ 230,000.

Ivy Tech offers nursing programs at 18 of its 19 campuses, with a program planned to launch at the remaining campus in Hamilton County by 2023.

“While IU Health has been super generous, that (grant) is getting spread against 19 campuses,” said Ivy Tech Foundation Executive Director of Development Therese Copeland. “And so there is a major fundraising element to this nursing expansion. … While this initial money will be able to pay for the instructors and some of that equipment and things like that, it’s a one-hit. So we need to figure out whether it’s endowments or what it is to try and have that money so that it’s consistent. ”

“It’s up to Therese and me to get out to our local hospitals, sell this to them, talk to them how this benefits their hospital, and get them on board too,” said Columbus Chancellor Steven Combs. “We’re going to need their support.”

Partnerships with healthcare partners could also help in finding more nursing faculty, he said.

State Trustee Jesse Brand said that at the state level, some healthcare networks have already begun partnerships and will loan instructors to the college system.

In regards to grant funds, Robinson told the board that Columbus has already submitted its nursing expansion plan and budget to the systems office for approval.

“Once those plans are approved, they’re going to start distributing those IU Health funds soon,” she said. “So that should happen here in the next few months.”

Across the state, Ivy Tech plans to add 155 seats to its nursing programs in 2022, 273 in 2023, 117 in 2024 and 53 in 2025, for a total of 598 over the four years.

“We look like we’re turning away about 600 people a year across the state that are qualified, that meet the minimum qualifications for admission, but we just don’t have the places for them,” Robinson said. “So there shouldn’t have to be a big recruitment effort, because we really have the numbers already.”

At present, the Columbus campus admits 35 students to its Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) program in the fall and 15 in the spring. Over the course of the growth plan, which goes through 2025, school officials expect to transition to 40 in the fall and 30 in the spring.

“Another thing that’s not really part of this initiative but just happening at the same time is we now have a medical assistant to ASN transition program, which is very unique,” added Robinson. “As far as I know, it’s the only program like it. We’ll be admitting our first class for this coming fall. ”

Ivy Tech’s Franklin site, which is part of Columbus’s service area, is not expected to see an increase in seats for its ASN program. However, the location will add a practical nursing program in the fall of 2024, with Robinson noting that there’s a “definite need” for Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) in the Johnson County area and south side of Marion County.

“The IU grant is really focused on RN and not LPN, but we are choosing to move forward with LPN because there’s a definite need,” she said. “And those students are eligible, once they graduate, to come back and transition to RN. And that’s a three-semester program to transition. ”

As far as space to accommodate the transition, Columbus is in a good position thanks to the creation of Moravec Hall, and Franklin is building a small simulation lab, said Robinson.

She added that a major need is faculty and staff, which account for roughly 94% of Columbus’s estimated recurring costs for the expansion, or a little over $ 445,000.

To be a nursing instructor, an individual must be an RN with at least three years of experience and a master’s degree. The college can also hire instructors who have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) as long as they’re currently earning their master’s.

“We definitely have a shortage of nurses with master’s degrees who want to teach,” said Robinson. “Just like hospitals are having trouble recruiting nurses, so are we. And the amounts of money that people are being paid as travel nurses right now – I mean, they’re making $ 130 an hour. So it’s hard to convince people to give that up. ”

Whitney Hale, executive director of human resources for the Ivy Tech Bloomington and Columbus campuses, said that there is a partnership between the college systems office and Ivy Tech Columbus regarding tuition reimbursement for hires who are earning their master’s degrees.

There is also a statewide campaign to recruit nursing instructors, and the college is also looking at the salaries of other nursing faculty across the state, Robinson said.

In addition to needing more instructors, the college will also need support staff such as advisers, retention specialists and tutors.

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