April 10, 2007
A recent appropriation of $60,000 from the Idaho state legislature will allow the Registered Nursing program at North Idaho College to expand. The expansion will include offering the RN program in Bonner County, according to NIC President Priscilla Bell.
The Ponderay Center, NIC's new facility in Bonner County, will provide a classroom and lab for the nursing students. A variety of local health care facilities will be used to provide clinical experiences.
Currently, all RN students must commute to or live in Coeur d’Alene. At this time there are about 10 first year students, of a two year curriculum, from the Bonner and Boundary County area attending class in Coeur d’Alene. These students will now have the option of attending class closer to home starting next fall.
The expansion increases the total number of nursing students, without placing additional burdens on the facilities currently used for clinical placement. And with students from northern counties able to complete the program in Ponderay, the expansion also will free up space in the program on the main NIC campus.
According to Lita Burns, NIC Health Professions and Nursing Director, the plan is to start the expanded program this fall. “We will hire two adjunct instructors and have a lab ready by then,” said Burns.
Burns researched and drafted the proposal that the legislature’s Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee approved for $60,000 of on going funds, a plan signed off on b y Gov. Butch Otter. It will pay for the two adjunct or part-time instructors and furnish a lab.
State Senator Shawn Keough from Sandpoint, vice chair of JFAC, said, “I’ m pleased that this expansion of the NIC RN Program has passed. This is a solid program and expanding in Sandpoint provides added opportunities for students in our area as well as acknowledges that Sandpoint is growing as a health care hub for our area.”
The new faculty members will allow room for two clinical groups. State law mandates a 10-1 student teacher ratio in clinical sites. Burns and her staff are looking at creative ways to provide all of the service.
“Many ideas are on the table right now. One might be five first year students and five second year students in the same group. We have never done that before but it’s open for discussion,” she said.
WebCT, an on line course management system, and interactive video conferencing will be in the plan.
NIC officials plan to partner with Bonner General Hospital, which has been very supportive according to Burns. Susan Montgomery, Chief of Nursing at Bonner General, said “This has been a vision for many years, growing our own nurses. It is an opportunity to retain students in our community-a huge advancement.”
Some Long Term Care facilities in the area will also be used to provide clinical sites for the program.
Interest in health care professions has been promoted in the Health Occupations programs at Sandpoint High School. “They have been doing a very good job,” Burns said.
In addition to the northern panhandle the RN course draws applicants from northeastern Washington and northwestern Montana. For those who might be accepted into this limited enrollment program, this will reduce their commute or eliminate the need to live in or near Coeur d’Alene.
Nearly all of the prerequisites for the RN program are now available at the Ponderay Center. The only exception may be Anatomy and Physiology, and Microbiology. All the prerequisites must be completed before being accepted into the Nursing program.
In addition to the RN program, the Licensed Practical Nursing program will return to the Ponderay Center. Graduates in that program are eligible for advance placement into the RN program.
“I want to thank the legislators for recognizing the significance of the nursing shortage and assisting us in meeting the needs in our rural areas,” Burns said.