Hospitals now have to think outside of the nursing-school box to get more nurses on their patient units.
The problem has been building for a few years. Not all the students who want to enroll in nursing programs are able to get in.
Part of the problem is strict standards required for acceptance; someone who wants a second chance at a career 10 years after he or she dropped out of high school may find it more difficult to get in.
But the larger problem is that there just aren't enough nursing instructors to teach all the interested nursing students. As baby-boomer-age nurses and nursing teachers retire, nursing schools aren't able to keep up and end up turning many students away.
University of Utah chief nursing officer Margaret Pearce says that's why the U is reaching out to existing employees with a new program. "This May, we started a new school. We have 30 students who work for us who are going to become associate degree nurses," she said.
The joint program from the University of Utah Nursing School and Medical Center and Salt Lake Community College allows people who are currently working for the U -- for example, as lab or pharmacy techs or nurses' aides -- to go to school tuition free. They don't even have to pay for books.
Pearce says following the 18-month program, students come out with an associate degree, qualified to become an RN.
The joint program uses master's degree nurses at the U to help supply its faculty needs.