Montana’s population is aging, and so are Montana’s nurses.
To help confront Montana’s nursing shortage before it can get much worse, the state has received some help — a two-year, $300,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Academic Progression in Nursing program to help academic institutions and employers help more nurses gain more advanced degrees.
“I think we were chosen because we are state that is known that we can work together,” said Cynthia Gustafson, executive director of the Montana Board of Nursing.
The grant, given to just nine states nationwide, will help the Montana Area Health Education Center in the MSU College of Nursing help students earn degrees such as the BSN, or Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
It’s a confusing process for many potential nurses, with several levels of nursing certification and different ways to get there.
The grant’s goals include increasing the number of hospitals that provide incentives for nurses seeking higher degrees; establishing common admission standards at all two-year nursing programs; establishing a mentor program; and adopting the BSN curricula now in place at Montana Tech and MSU Northern to provide a seamless transition from associate’s degree programs into the BSN programs.
The grant also will pay for a part-time position to create a website, organize meetings around the state and conduct research needed by the nursing faculty leading the project.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation would like to see 80 percent of nurses hold BSNs by 2020. Now, the rate is about 50 percent.
“Nurses are the largest segment of health care providers,” said Gustafson. “They are the people that surround you 24-7 and I think a very important part of how we can advance health.”