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IHC aids nursing schools again to counter shortage

Deseret Morning News

March 26, 2005

By Lois M. Collins

Intermountain Health Care has been donating money to area nursing schools to help bolster the number of nurses who can be trained. It is part of an ongoing effort to counter some of the nursing shortage, predicted to get worse in coming years.

Thursday, during a news conference at LDS Hospital, IHC gave $600,000 to Salt Lake Community College and $400,000 to Westminster. Two weeks ago IHC gave a total of $1.5 million to Brigham Young University and Utah Valley State College. The donations will be stretched out over five years. College of Eastern Utah, Dixie State, Southern Utah University and Weber State University have also received grants recently.

In all, Utah nursing schools will be able to produce about 600 more nursing graduates over the next five years.

Utah hasn't yet felt the effects of the shortage as other states have, IHC chief nursing officer Nancy Nowak said. And its core problem is a little different from other places as well. There are lots of applicants to Utah nursing schools, but the schools simply haven't had the capacity to expand the programs.

"We are lucky," she said, "because we have a stable work force and a lot of people that want to be a nurse."

Some who would be good nurses, she said, cannot get into schools because there's no room for them.

Nowak said the money will be used to add teaching staff to the programs. It will also be used to buy two simulators to aid in training the students.

SLCC plans to add 66 new part-time students who can take a less-intense class schedule over a 26-month period. That will start in August.

Westminster will add 50 more nurses to its training program and will be able to reinstate the program that has, in the past, allowed nurses with a two-year degree to complete their baccalaureate training at Westminster.