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Madison nursing program expansions could help offset forecasted shortage

Madison nursing program expansions could help offset forecasted shortage


In the main classroom of UW-Madison’s new School of Nursing, students sitting at circular tables will solve problems together using mock electronic medical records.

Next to a simulated clinic and hospital unit, students will learn about home health care in a model apartment wired for the latest in technology, such as floor mats that can detect changes in an elderly resident’s gait.

“It’s problem-focused, team-based instruction,” said Katharyn May, nursing school dean. “Lecturing to nursing students is entirely ineffective today. Their attention spans are dictated by the digital world.”

The $53 million building, to be dedicated Saturday and open for classes next month, won’t only teach students differently. It will teach more of them, in an effort to help offset a projected shortage of nearly 23,500 nurses in Wisconsin by 2035.

Edgewood College and Madison Area Technical College are also expanding their nursing programs, and Herzing University launched a nursing program in Madison seven years ago.

The additional programs are needed because many older nurses are expected to retire in the next few years as aging baby boomer patients and people newly insured through the Affordable Care Act drive up demand.

“We’re calling it the gray tsunami,” said Judith Hansen, executive director of the Wisconsin Center for Nursing.

Wisconsin doesn’t have much of a nursing shortage now. But according to the state Department of Workforce Development, the state will see a shortage of 11,800 nurses by 2025, with the deficit doubling in the decade after that, if the number of new nurses doesn’t increase.

The Madison expansions help address the problem, Hansen said. “If every school in the state increases its capacity, it would certainly be a step in the right direction,” she said.

Joan Knetter, 47, a former financial analyst from Madison, said the growing market for nurses is one reason she went back to school, at Edgewood College, and got a nursing degree two years ago.

She was also inspired by the care her father received before dying from pancreatic cancer seven years ago. Now, as an oncology nurse at UW Health, Knetter helps others during vulnerable times.

“There are unmeasurable rewards,” she said.

Admitting more students

Edgewood College doubled its nursing program the past decade, to 100 or more graduates a year the past three years. The school started an accelerated post-baccalaureate program in 2009, allowing people with a bachelor’s degree in another field to get a nursing degree in a year.

Edgewood, which has also offered a master’s degree in nursing for two decades, added a clinical doctorate program last year to train nurse leaders.

In all, Edgewood now admits about 150 nursing students a year, with a goal of expanding to 200 by 2020, said Margaret Noreuil, nursing school dean.

A $3.4 million renovation of Edgewood’s nursing school building, finished last year, centralized and doubled classroom space, Noreuil said.

Madison Area Technical College, also known as Madison College, is admitting nearly 200 nursing students this year, up from 150 to 160 the past few years, said Kay Grotelueschen, associate dean of nursing.

More than half of the students are at the Truax campus in Madison, with the others at regional campuses in Fort Atkinson, Reedsburg and Watertown, Grotelueschen said.

“I hope to continue to see a slow growth of our program for the next number of years,” she said.

Herzing University has more than 100 nursing students in its Madison program, said Steven Rush, associate academic dean for health care.

Signe Skott Cooper Hall

In UW-Madison’s new nursing school building, across Highland Avenue from UW Hospital, 152 students will enter the program this year, up from 130 in recent years.

The building can accommodate more students, and UW-Madison has twice as many qualified applicants as it accepts, May said. But the class size is limited by the challenge of acquiring adequate numbers of faculty, she said.

UW-Madison also has about 125 students seeking clinical and academic doctorate nursing degrees, who could help fill leadership and faculty jobs.

The new building, called Signe Skott Cooper Hall, is funded by $34.8 million from the state and $18 million in private funding and gifts. It is named after an alumna and former professor at the school who died last year after pledging her estate and that of her sister, Hilda, who died in 2000.

The nursing school was previously inside UW Hospital and the adjacent Health Sciences Learning Center.

The new, five-story building includes nursing history exhibits featuring Cooper’s collection of nursing uniforms, instruments and tools from several decades.

Walls are adorned with quotes from notable figures including Eleanor Roosevelt, Maya Angelou and Florence Nightingale. An abundance of windows brings in natural light — something Nightingale, considered the founder of modern nursing, likely would have appreciated.

“She really believed that nature is a healing force,” May said.

But the building’s biggest bells and whistles are its high-tech simulation labs. With a clinic, four hospital rooms, a nursing station and the home environment, students will be able to track a patient’s journey from office visit to hospitalization and back home.

“We can simulate an entire episode of care right here,” May said.

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