Harford College Gets Grant To Expand Nurse Program

July 28, 2009|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

A $1.2 million grant will help Harford Community College expand its nursing program to include an accelerated 15-month course that offers evening, weekend and online classes. The 15-month course could prepare as many as 88 nurses by 2014 in less time than the college's traditional two-year program.

The Health Services Review Cost Commission, an association of area hospitals, provided the grant to address the critical nursing shortage.

HCC, in partnership with Upper Chesapeake Health, will establish a pilot program to enable studies at its Bel Air campus in the Weekend and Evening Accelerated Nursing Program, which starts in May.

Web-based instructional components will provide additional flexibility for students and instructors. Students will fulfill the clinical requirements during 12-hour shifts on Saturdays and Sundays.

"This is an intensive program with a selection process that is equally rigorous," said Katherine McGuire, grants manager at HCC. "You get students who are really dedicated. They will get practical, hands-on experience in what it is like to work a 12-hour shift or work on a flexible schedule."

As the nursing shortage continues, colleges are tailoring courses to mesh with the lives of their prospective students. Offering online courses and scheduling classes at nontraditional times may also attract more teachers in the program.

"In some of the online programs, I have students answering questions at 2 a.m. or on Saturday," said Jane Kapustin, assistant dean for the master's program at the University of Maryland School of Nursing. "We have to accept the changing times and prepare students for a profession that is 24/7 and 365 days."

Several other colleges in the state have accelerated programs, she said. University of Maryland offers a clinical nurse leader program for those who have a bachelor degree in another field and may want to change careers. Students have a choice of a 16- or 24-month programs.

HCC received a $670,000 grant in 2006 that established its first accelerated nursing program, an intensive summer course that graduated 24 last year.

"These accelerated courses offer the same clinical and course work in a concentrated time," said Laura Preston, HCC dean of nursing. "This is not for everyone, but it works and we have high retention, completion and success rates."

The college will begin accepting applications in October for the first weekend and evening program and expects to fill the 24 slots quickly. HCC has often had as many as 500 applicants for entry into its nursing programs, McGuire said. Tuition will be the college's standard $77 per credit.

"There is no lack of applicants," McGuire said. "What is missing is the class space and the instructors. The accelerated programs help address that."

For additional information, contact nursing@harford.edu.

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