[CONTRIBUTING AUTHOR: MORGAN AUSTIN]
(Charleston, IL) – Eastern Illinois University’s board of trustees voted unanimously at its regular September meeting to seek approval on a bachelor of science program in Nursing into its Health and Human Services curriculum.
EIU, which is accredited by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s (AACN) Commission for Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), already offers a flexible, online registered nurse (RN) to bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program for working nurses. The newly proposed program, once approved by the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE), would allow students who are interested in earning a bachelor of science degree in Nursing to take all four years of the program’s curriculum on Eastern’s campus and earn a BSN degree from the Charleston, Illinois-based university.
“This program would allow EIU to further embrace its proactive role in addressing Illinois’ current nursing shortage,” said Eastern’s Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost Dr. Jay Gatrell. “Students have expressed an increased interest in attending EIU for all four years of a bachelor’s program in nursing. This program would allow EIU to accommodate those students and to expand our qualified regional workforce of skilled, employable nurses.”
The addition of a BSN degree to EIU’s curriculum would help support state and regional needs for more licensed nursing positions in the future. Those needs have been clearly communicated by both prospective students and leaders within the regional workforce.
According to information available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Illinois employed more than 123,000 registered nurses in 2017. Despite competitive salaries and a favorable job market, Illinois faces a looming nursing shortage—primarily due to an aging workforce on the verge of retirement. Current estimates show that by 2020, Illinois will face a shortage of more than 21,000 nurses.
On the positive side, expected shortages will mean new opportunities for qualified nurses—opportunities which are especially evident in the east central Illinois region. Local research conducted in summer 2019 showed more than 150 open nursing positions in the region. In addition, surveys of high school counselors and principals conducted by EIU revealed that, on average, more than 110 students within 50 miles of EIU’s Charleston campus would be interested in pursuing post-secondary education in nursing each year. For this reason, Gatrell said, it’s likely the unmet demand across EIU’s traditional statewide service area is significant—a premise consistent with the amount of inquiries EIU’s Admissions Office receives about the university’s pre-nursing program options annually.
As EIU awaits IBHE approval, the university will continue work to secure other required authorizations to offer an accredited BSN degree in the near future. Eastern academic leaders anticipate the program’s inaugural cohort could be enrolled as early as 2020, depending on how quickly the university receives the appropriate board and accreditation approvals. As it will be submitted to IBHE, an approved BSN degree at EIU would require its students to earn at least 124 semester hours within the program, as well as meet other standard clinical requirements.
For more information about EIU, or to learn more about its growing assortment of programs and services, visit the university’s website at www.eiu.edu, or call EIU’s public information office at (217) 581-7400.