Eastern Illinois University is poised to bring some relief to the state’s nursing shortage, as the Illinois Board of Higher Education unanimously approved the university’s new nursing degree program Tuesday.
EIU is accepting applications for the founding director, and plans call for classes to begin in the fall of 2007.
The program will provide bachelor of science in nursing degrees to those who already have earned registered nursing licenses.
It is telling that of the six new programs approved by the IBHE, four are health-related, said EIU President Lou Hencken.
“There is a tremendous need for more educational opportunities for nurses in the region, state and country,” Hencken said. “We are thrilled that we will be able to provide a resource that will benefit nurses and the citizens they serve.”
Currently, only a quarter of the state’s nursing programs are housed in public universities, and no public institutions in the EIU region offer bachelor’s degrees in nursing. Therefore, local nursing students are forced to either pay high tuition rates at private colleges or opt for out-of-state tuition.
“When our consultant was here last summer, she interviewed health professionals and health administrators in Charleston, Mattoon, Effingham and Paris, and they all supported this program and believed that they would have many working professionals who would be interested in enrolling,” said Mary Anne Hanner, dean of EIU’s College of Sciences. “That overwhelming support is one of the reasons we moved forward.”
In the EIU area, there are about 1,800 practicing registered nurses who hold associate-level degrees. Less than 15 percent of area nurses have bachelor’s degrees, far lower than the state average of 30 percent, and lower still than the average at model nursing departments in recognized hospitals, which is 55 percent.
“Nurses with baccalaureate degrees are in high demand, because they are responsible for a higher level and quality of care,” Blair Lord, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “Therefore, nurses are being recruited away from local health care agencies with offers of higher salaries, advanced education and opportunities for professional development. Our program will allow nurses to remain in this area while enhancing their preparation.”
The course of study – the first new bachelor’s degree program at EIU in 18 years – was approved by the EIU Board of Trustees in December.
“President Hencken has supported this project from the very beginning of our discussions and has been a strong supporter of moving it through the appropriate channels,” Hanner said. “The IBHE vote is the last step of approval that we needed to embark on our establishment of this program. We’re excited about the opportunity.”