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ISU Mennonite College of Nursing Dean Neubrander believes solution to nursing shortage lies in academic progression and partnership

Illinois State House and Capitol Building in Springfield, IL

In Springfield yesterday, nurses were shut out of the discussion regarding baccalaureate nursing education. It was a sad day under the dome.

“There is no question that we are facing a nursing shortage both here in Illinois and nationally. And, there has been much discussion about how to best act to combat that shortage. It is my firm belief that the path forward lies not in legislation that gives the community college the opportunity to offer the bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN), but via strategic partnerships between community colleges and four-year institutions that provide the best possible education to the next generation of nurses. We also need to find solutions that address the shortage of clinical site placements and qualified faculty,” Neubrander explained.

She continued, “There are many issues with the legislative solution of giving community colleges the ability to grant bachelor’s degrees in nursing, but the primary issue is that doing so will NOT provide Illinois with any higher quantity of nurses.”

This is due to the fact that it is not seats in classrooms that restrict four-year universities from expanding BSN programs, but rather, clinical placements and the ability to attract Ph.D.-prepared faculty to teach.

“It’s not a question of physical space. It’s a question of being able to provide those students with clinical experiences. Hospitals statewide are at capacity. Allowing community colleges to offer the BSN will not change that,” Neubrander explained. “Additionally, there is a nation-wide shortage of doctorally prepared faculty to teach in BSN programs. Again, allowing community colleges to grant bachelor’s degrees will not change that–in fact, it may add to that problem.”

Neubrander offered an alternative solution to the nursing shortage–one that has been well received in Springfield.

“I strongly believe that the solution lies in strategic partnerships between community colleges and four-year universities that allow for academic progression. Community colleges play an important role in bringing new recruits into nursing. ‘Academic progression’ means that we put partnerships in place where those students can begin their nursing education at a community college, and then easily transition to a four-year university to complete their bachelor’s degree. Dual-enrollment, dual-admission, and pathways programs, allow students to get their BSN from a reputable provider of baccalaureate education at a reasonable price, with the flexibility demanded by working adult and non-traditional students.”

Under Neubrander’s leadership, ISU isn’t just talking about academic progression–Mennonite College of Nursing is walking the walk.

To date, MCN has a dual-enrollment partnership with Heartland Community College, and is in talks with four others, including Joliet Junior College and Parkland College. They offer dual admission with five community colleges, including Illinois Valley Community College and Illinois Central College, and expect to add two more colleges to that list in the near future.

“The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation sponsored this model in North Carolina. This is a well-respected organization that only supports initiatives founded in evidence-based practice. New York, Texas, and New Mexico all have successfully implemented similar models.”

Nursing, as a profession, has also identified academic progression as the path forward. A joint statement in support of the community college–four year university partnership-model has been released by the:

  • American Association of Community Colleges,
  • Association of Community College Trustees,
  • American Association of Colleges of Nursing,
  • National League for Nursing,
  • and the National Organization for Associate Degree Nursing.

The American Nurses Association endorsed the statement in April of 2018.