A predicted national shortage of nurses in the next decade could be made worse by a shortage of the experienced nurses who train them at community colleges and universities around the country.
In response, nursing education leaders from 11 states are gathering in Portland this week to find ways to boost the number of faculty in nursing programs.
The Oregon model they'll study blends the curriculum and faculty of community colleges and universities to give nursing students in two-year associate degree programs a chance to earn bachelor's degrees.
The more nurses with bachelor's, the greater the number expected to go on to advanced degrees and teaching, educators say.
"We really are one faculty and a common curriculum," said Christine Tanner, a professor at the Oregon Health and Science University School of Nursing.
Eight community colleges have joined OHSU to create the Oregon Consortium for Nursing Education, allowing students in rural areas of the state to complete their coursework for a bachelor's while remaining in their community.
The Oregon program is the centerpiece of the two-day conference sponsored by the Center to Champion Nursing in America, created by AARP and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The center is working to prepare nurses for the demands of 21st century medicine, which includes a major shift in demographics to an aging population suffering from more chronic illnesses that will boost demand for health care.
At the same time, a major nursing shortage is expected with federal estimates projecting the nation will have 29 percent fewer nurses than it needs by 2020.
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