CNCC nursing program gets off to a strong start

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— Each week openings for nurses fill the classified advertising sections of Northwest Colorado newspapers.

They are ads that have run time and time again as a nationwide shortage of nurses hits the area particularly hard and ensures that the pickings will be slim.

Marilyn Bouldin, Colorado Northwestern Community College-Craig (CNCC) nursing program director, said the region has the lowest number of nurses per capita of any other region in the state.

As of January, there were 23 RN vacancies and six LPN vacancies in Northwest Colorado.

But CNCC has created a solution.

The college kicked off its nursing program for the spring semester with a certified nursing assistant program and the two classes that have been held have been full.

"The interest is just amazing," Bouldin said.

The class will be held again this fall, with a 10-student maximum, but Bouldin said she would consider offering a second class if there is enough interest.

There already is a waiting list for classes this fall.

Participants enroll for a variety of reasons, Bouldin said. Some want to see if nursing is a career they want to pursue, others are ready to work in the field and still others just want knowledge to care for elderly parents or ailing relatives.

Second-year students can enter the college's licensed practical nurses program and applications are being accepted now for the first-year practical nursing program, which begins in August. This is a full-time program that is three semesters long and will allow graduates to become LPNs.

Students at some point over the first two and a half semesters of Bouldin's program could get hands-on experience at health facilities in Craig, Meeker, Rangely and Steamboat Springs.

Students getting through practical nursing must pass a state exam to earn LPN certification, allowing them to move to a second year of Bouldin's program.

In the fall of 2004, the college will offer second-year students associate's degrees in nursing, which allows LPNs to become registered nurses by taking a state-administered test at the completion of the course.

The course curriculum is designed to facilitate the process for students who wish to continue their education at the bachelor's or master's degree level, CNCC spokeswoman Mary Morris said.

Several students already have put their names on a waiting list for that course.

"I'd say about 90 percent of students intend to enroll for the second year," Bouldin said.

Information and program applications are available online at www.cncc.edu. Call Bouldin at 824-1119 for more information.

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