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Rezin bill allows bachelor nursing degrees at community colleges

IVCC will be watching legislation closely

State Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, is co-sponsoring a bill that would allow community colleges to offer a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

Illinois Valley Community College will be watching with much interest to see if the bill reaches the Senate floor.

It did not get out of committee last year when it was proposed by Rezin.

The senator said the legislation is an effort to help with a nursing shortage throughout Illinois, especially in rural areas.

Many hospitals seek out or encourage nurses to acquire the Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, which IVCC is unable to offer. The Institute of Medicine released a report calling for a nurse workforce that is 80 percent BSN-prepared by 2020.

The American Nurses Association reports “that with more than 500,000 seasoned registered nurses anticipated to retire by 2022, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the need for 1.1 million new RNs for expansion and replacement of retirees, and to avoid a nursing shortage.”

“When I visit health care providers in my district, they tell me they are in desperate need of good nurses, but they oftentimes struggle to fill the gap,” Rezin said in a press statement. “This would help fill those gaps by allowing individuals to pursue a career in nursing but who either can’t afford a four-year university, are working another job, or have other circumstances that prevent them from attending a four-year university.

“Providing students this avenue to achieve their dream is important — not only for them but for patients across the state and the future of health care.”

According to survey information IVCC gathered from its nursing program graduates, President Jerry Corcoran said there is a demand for a bachelor’s program at the college.

He also said due to the quality of IVCC’s existing program, the community college would be more prepared than most to launch it. He said IVCC graduates perform better on the required state exam than some institutes’ graduates with a BSN.

“The nursing program is one of our flagship programs,” Corcoran said. “If this were to pass, it would be a beautiful fit for IVCC.”

Corcoran said four-year universities may not like the proposal, because they may see it as taking away from their student base. He said many nursing students take classes while trying to hold onto a job, which makes it difficult to attend universities.

Rezin agreed.

“If someone has the skillset, knowledge and passion to help others as a nurse but can’t attend a four-year university for a variety of reasons, I think we owe it to them to provide them another way,” Rezin said. “Going the community college route would include the same rigorous educational standards as a university.”

The Illinois Higher Education Working Group also is discussing ways on how to best address the nursing shortage, Rezin said in a press release. She said she will wait to see if the working group can come up with an adequate solution, but if they can’t, she said her bill should be debated and voted on.

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