Board of Higher Education approves creation of nursing program at SIU

We are grateful for the IBHE’s decision approving the creation of a nursing program at SIU Carbondale,” chancellor John M. Dunn said.

The Illinois Board of Higher Education, IBHE, in early August approved the creation of a nursing program for Southern Illinois University Carbondale. 

Pre-nursing students can enroll in the new bachelor of science in nursing, BSN, degree program this fall, taking core classes before the full nursing curriculum starts in fall 2020. 

The IBHE also approved new doctoral programs for occupational therapy and physical therapy. 

Those two programs will begin in two and three years, respectively, due to the required accreditation process. 

Program officials anticipate that the nursing program will annually provide training for about 300 students once fully implemented over a four-year period. The goal is to help offset the nursing shortage within the region. 

“We are grateful for the IBHE’s decision approving the creation of a nursing program at SIU Carbondale,” chancellor John M. Dunn said. 

“With the support of Southern Illinois Healthcare (SIH), this will allow students to receive a top-flight education and at the same time help address a critical regional need as the demand for highly trained nurses and health care professionals continues to increase.” 

Scott Collins, director of the university’s School of Health Sciences, said the nursing program brings a two-prong benefit to the region. 

In addition to generating additional enrollment for SIU, it creates an opportunity for area health care institutions, including physicians’ offices, hospitals and clinics, to have access to locally trained bachelor’s degree-level nurses. 

“It’s exciting for the Carbondale campus to have a high-demand program like this come aboard with tremendous community support,” Collins said. “The support alone has been very encouraging.” 

University officials will now seek to gain approval from the Illinois Board of Professional and Financial Regulation along with nursing program accreditation, said Collins. 

In addition, there will be a nationwide search for a nursing program director whom Collins hopes will be in place this year. 

“We want to make sure we get a good, qualified director from the applicant pool,” he said. 

The nursing program will feature three separate tracks: 

Traditional BSN four-year program: This track is for incoming freshmen who want to pursue a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Students will also earn a minor in health care management.

RN to BSN degree completion: This track is for registered nurses who have an associate degree and want to earn a bachelor’s degree. As with the traditional four-year program, these students may also earn a minor in health care management through online courses.

Accelerated BSN track: The accelerated track is for students who have a Bachelor of Science degree in a different field or who have 70 to 80 credit hours completed toward a bachelor’s degree along with prerequisite courses. Coursework in this track will be completed within 12 months. This program is expected to begin in fall 2021. 

“What this will allow is to keep the supply of nurses here to meet the needs of our community,” Collins said. 

He added that nearly all of the universities that offer a BSN degree are in northern and central Illinois and very few offer an accelerated BSN track. 

Collins emphasized that upon receiving IBHE approval, the program will reach out to every community college in the state to develop articulation agreements. 

Nationwide, there is expected to be a 15 percent increase in the workforce for registered nurses with an additional 439,000 jobs by 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Dunn said SIH has pledged up to $1 million to start the undergraduate nursing program and up to another $470,000 toward the two graduate programs. 

SIH was also helpful in curriculum development in addition to the financial support. 

While in the program, students will conduct their clinical training in SIH as well as other local facilities. 

The plan is to reach out to all of the local health care institutions in the region, including Southeast Missouri, to see if they are interested in working with students, Collins said. 

“We’re pleased to have this option to ‘grow our own,’ not only for SIH, but also for hospitals and healthcare providers across the region. It better aligns relationships with local community colleges and creates a clear path for nursing students in pursuit of a BSN in a cost-effective manner,” said SIH president and CEO Rex Budde. 

Both occupational therapy and physical therapy professionals are in very high demand and the forecast is for a high growth, according the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

The doctorate programs are designed for students who are certified occupational therapist assistants, physical therapist assistants, other allied health professionals, as well as general admission candidates. 

The curriculum will be offered as a three-year, weekend on-site program with online work also required. 

Collins noted there are no similar public university doctorate programs within a seven-hour radius of SIU Carbondale. 

“We are hearing there is a lot of excitement in the professional community for both of those programs,” Collins said.

The training of health care providers is critical to providing medical and rehabilitative care to our patients in Southern Illinois, according to Dr. Terrence Glennon, longtime physiatrist with SIH and the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab in Chicago. 

“Nurses are the backbone of that care, but we also have a need to train caregivers in other fields such as physical and occupational therapy,” Glennon said. 

“If we expand local training options, not only will we be able to provide excellent nursing care, but also appropriate therapy services without sending our future caregivers out of state for training, which we are forced to do currently.” 

More information about the nursing program is available by contacting Mary Smith, an academic adviser in the School of Health Sciences, or Robert Broomfield, allied health specialist, at 618-453-7211.

The Gazette-Democrat

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Anna, Illinois 62906
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