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Memorial Health and ISU partner to train more nursing students

Ed Curtis
NPR Illinois
/
Memorial Health President and CEO Ed Curtis

An agreement between Memorial Health and the Illinois State University Mennonite College of Nursing is expected to bring several students to Springfield.

Juniors and seniors will complete their coursework in the capital city while also getting on the job training at Memorial facilities. Along with the opportunity for learning, it’s also billed as a way to help improve the current nursing shortage, which began well before COVID-19.

“Significant problems require creative solutions. And that is exactly what this partnership exemplifies,” said ISU President Terri Goss Kinzy. “It’s bringing together, in my opinion, two extraordinary institutions… institutions dedicated to the public good.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 175,900 job openings for registered nurses annually through 2029. The factors contributing to the shortage include retirements and other attrition along with an increasing number of older adults in need of health care.

The educational system is failing to keep up. A recent American Association of Colleges of Nursing report found 80,407 qualified applicants were turned away from baccalaureate and graduate programs in 2019. Limitations on faculty and space and other factors have slowed the pipeline.

“For individuals who want to go to college to be a nurse, like I did 50 years ago, there’s still a demand. But (there is) not enough space. Not enough clinical sites. Not enough teachers,” Memorial Health CEO and President Ed Curtis said. “So if we can partner with higher education to do that, it makes a big difference.”

Memorial Health will provide over $6 million during the next decade to create and support the partnership. Students will learn in a renovated building at 200 N. Grand Ave. West, along with Memorial Health sites.

Judy Neubrander, Dean of the Mennonite College of Nursing, said it will help her program, the students and the health care facilities in the area. She called it a “win-win-win.”

“We will have the ability to graduate more excellent nurses. Nurses who will hopefully have an amazing experience learning inside these walls and want to stay here in central Illinois,” she said.

Starting next year, between 24-48 students are expected to relocate to Springfield. As many as 100 could be based here in coming years. But Neubrander said it won’t be taking students away from the campus in Normal. Instead, she expects the program will be able to expand at ISU.

She also anticipates more students from the Springfield region will choose the program, including some who transfer from community colleges. Prospective students can apply now at nursing.illinoisstate.edu.

"What a vital role (nurses) play,” added Marsha Prater, Senior Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer at Memorial Health. “Without them, our health care system in the United States is in real trouble. We have to provide more opportunities to those interested in this difficult career.”

Prater said she hopes many who complete the nursing program in Springfield will stay and work in the area, helping reduce the local nursing shortage.

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