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Program will help offset nursing shortage in healthcare industry

Posted: 1:11 PM, Jun 14, 2019
Updated: 2019-06-14 14:11:08-04

OPELOUSAS, La. – South Louisiana Community College received approval from the Louisiana State Board of Nursing to offer an LPN to RN Transition Program track at its T.H. Harris Campus in Opelousas this Fall. The approval was granted during the board’s June 13 meeting.

This accelerated program includes three semesters combined with credit for prior learning. Students applying should have three years-experience as an LPN.

“Our Opelousas campus has a long history of graduating practical nursing students that have been gainfully employed in St. Landry Parish and beyond,” said Dr. Rebecca Harris-Smith, SLCC Dean of Nursing and Allied Health. “We feel these graduates have the knowledge base and experience to successfully complete a program in a shorter time frame than a traditional RN program.”

The program will accept applications until June 28 for the first cohort of 20 students. The program will accept new students each Summer. An info session for interested LPNs is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 18 and Tuesday, June 25 at the T.H. Harris Campus.

The development of this program benefits the community in a number of ways including: allowing LPNs an opportunity to become an RN more quickly, providing students the ability to continue working while completing the program, and building upon the skills LPNs already possess as nurses.

“Training a skilled workforce for healthcare across our region is a priority and part of our mission at SLCC,” said Dr. Natalie Harder, Chancellor. “This program is a win-win for our students and alumni and our region as more RNs will enter the healthcare workforce.”

A shortage of registered nurses is looming as baby boomers enter retirement. The U.S. Bureau of Labor projects the need for nearly 650,000 replacement nurses in the workforce bringing the total number of job openings for nurses to 1.09 million in 2024.

The college has several partners for this program including: State Representative Dustin Miller, Opelousas General Health System, St. Landry Economic Development, City of Opelousas, and the William C. Schumacher Foundation.

“Our community is excited to see the final steps approved for the LPN to RN Transition program. The opportunity for citizens to gain this educational opportunity while staying at home is amazing,” said Miller.

“This is great news for our growing healthcare industry. The LPN program offered by SLCC at its Opelousas campus has been highly successful, and the LPN to RN Transition program will boost it to the next level. It is another excellent example of partners collaborating with education in order to respond to a critical workforce need in the area. This new program will be a valuable opportunity for area students to progress their career potential in the healthcare field,” said Bill Rodier, Executive Director of St. Landry Parish Economic Development.

This accelerated track offers students an affordable option to return to college.

“This program assists the entire area by producing more registered nurses, doing so with the many trained LPNs within our region,” said Dr. Ken Cochran, CEO of Opelousas General Hospital. “This type of program minimizes the financial cost for nurses to return to school.”

The college received full approval for its traditional RN program from the Louisiana State Board of Nursing in 2017 and is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. The college’s LPN to RN Transition program will have to adhere to ACEN guidelines.

The first cohort of RNs from the Lafayette Campus began in Fall 2014 and graduated in Spring 2016. The most recent graduating class completed the NCLEX licensing exam with a 100% passage rate. The national average is 84.6%, according to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

“We are incredibly proud of the quality of our Registered Nursing program,” said Harris-Smith. “Students are getting job offers before graduation or immediately after. With a local average annual wage $57,693 for registered nurses, the growth will stimulate workforce and economic development in Acadiana.”

The college’s original Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) program was spurred from local industry demand in healthcare and a desire for an increased pipeline of qualified RNs. The registered nurse population in Acadiana is expected to grow 18% by 2024, according to the Louisiana Workforce Commission.

In 2013, Acadiana’s three major hospital systems (Lafayette General Health, Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center, and Women’s and Children’s Hospital) and Lafayette Economic Development Authority collectively invested $500,000 to establish a Registered Nursing program at SLCC.

For more information about the LPN to RN Transition Program track, call the T.H. Harris Campus at (337) 943-1518.