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Wisconsin on the path of record shortage of nurses; local university looks to help

(WEAU)
Published: Aug. 17, 2017 at 8:07 PM CDT
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A local university has a new game plan to fill a nursing deficit across the state.

“The numbers are not looking good,” said Linda Young, the Dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences at UW-Eau Claire. “As we look to the future, we're going to face an even more dramatic nursing shortage than we are now, so we need to prepare for that.”

Currently, the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire has to turn away roughly half of qualified applicants to their traditional nursing programs due to faculty and financial cuts. However, the university is working on a plan to help fill the nursing need here and across the state as the predicted deficit of is expected to sit at 23,000 nurses by 2040, as we're on the path to a record shortage. The university says the shortage of nurses is only expected to get worse as the baby-boomer generation gets older, and that's why they've got a plan they hope will help increase nursing students in their programs who will in turn join the workforce.

“Right now we have a faculty shortage, so that's not going to happen immediately, but there is some potential of us expanding,” Young said. “There is the chancellor’s initiative that's been put forth in the state budget. Once we get finalization in the state budget, we'll find out if funding will come our way to expand our traditional baccalaureate program.”

If approved, the funding will help expand UW-Eau Claire’s traditional nursing program to accept an additional 16 students a year. They currently admit 40 each semester.

“We have over-qualified applicants to our traditional baccalaureate program and we turn away roughly half to two-thirds of applicants who qualify to become a nursing student in our program. So it’d be great if we could take in all those students to contribute to the workforce.”

Young adds they've been able to bring some of their programs back to full swing with help from public-private partnerships like Marshfield Clinic.

“Marshfield Clinic stepped up, to fund and make it possible to keep the program going and return our admissions to 16 a semester. We needed to downsize it to 8 due to the cut and I was even looking at actually closing the [Marshfield] program due to the funding loss, but we now bring it back.”

Young says they're also looking to fill a deficit in primary care with their graduate programs. She also says they're working on other opportunities to increase the amount of nursing students at UW-Eau Claire.

The UW System has 6 nursing programs in total, contributing 25 percent of nursing graduates in the state.