Nursing program continues to draw intense interest

Curriculum, state approval still in the works for courses that could ease shortage

The curriculum isn't set, much less approved by the state and classes won't start until the fall.

But intense interest in a nursing program led by Marilyn Bouldin at Colorado Northwestern Community College is reflected in both enrollment figures this semester, and people just stopping by with questions, officials with the school said Wednesday.

"It has been incredible," said Bouldin, who left the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association after 17 years to launch CNCC's nursing school.

"Ninety-five people have come by with different questions about it," Bouldin said.

This, as VNA's longtime former director of community care orders supplies for fall classes, sorts out classroom space and finishes paperwork needed for approval by the state's board of nursing.

"I anticipate enrolling students by late April or May," Bouldin said.

Some students are already working toward a planned practical nursing course this fall. Current semester courses, such as English composition, anatomy and physiology, which are all requirements, have all seen jumps in enrollment.

Overall, numbers are up more than 10 percent from last spring's semester, according to Mary Morris, CNCC's community education director.

Bouldin's inaugural practical nursing course will have 16 available slots.

Students at some point over the first two and a half semesters of Bouldin's program could get hands-on experience at health facilities in Craig, Meeker, Rangely and Steamboat Springs.

A recent CNCC survey of all hospitals and clinics in those communities illustrate a regional nursing shortage.

"There are 23 RN (registered nurse) vacancies right now and about six LPN (licensed practical nurse) vacancies," Bouldin said.

"Everybody's short and that's probably why they're interested in this."

Students getting through practical nursing must pass a state exam to earn LPN certification, allowing them to move to a second year of Bouldin's program.

Associate's degrees in nursing and, ultimately an exam to become a registered nurse, await successful students.

Possibly a local job as well.

Suzanne Frappier, chief nursing officer at The Memorial Hospital, sees Bouldin's program as a local talent pipeline in the making.

A number of nurses living in Craig have found jobs other than at TMH, while administrators are forced to look elsewhere for staffing needs, she said.

Frappier sits on an advisory board for CNCC's nursing program.

"Ideally I'd like to see more people from this community as opposed to traveling here," said Frappier

Paul Shockley can be reached at 824-7031 or at pshockley@craigdailypress.

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