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WGU Addresses America's Nursing Shortage

Leavitt School of Health webinar features roadmap to tackle workforce crisis

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing states that more than 90,000 qualified students in the U.S. were turned away from nursing programs in 2021 due to a multitude of reasons, including the lack of infrastructure and faculty.

Western Governors University’s (WGU) Michael O. Leavitt School of Health (LSH), the nation’s leading institution for high-quality health and nursing education, is working to curb the nursing shortage crisis in the United States. Experts from LSH recently discussed key issues and action steps with Annalisa Holcombe, senior vice president of WGU Advancement, in a live webinar, “Meeting the Moment.” The university’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing (Prelicensure) degree program aims to add more than 4,800 new nursing graduates to the workforce by 2027 to tackle the nation’s nursing shortage crisis.

“We aim to be the largest school of nursing and health education in the country that produces competent health workers who deliver compassionate and quality care with the motto to serve and yield better patient outcomes. Our innovative programs reach the non-traditional, working, underserved, and marginalized students who aspire to join the industry by meeting them in their communities,” said Keith Smith, LSH senior vice president and an adult, non-traditional learner himself. “Along with the physical aspects of health, we prepare our students to focus on mental, emotional, and social health, theirs as well as their patients’.”

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing says that approximately 100,000 registered nurses have left the workforce since the COVID-19 pandemic and more than 600,000 intend to leave by 2027 because of stress, burnout, and retirement. Because nurses quit owing to acute burden and aging out of the workforce, increasing access and removing barriers to high-quality health and nursing education programs is a prime goal of LSH. To understand the efforts by the school, Holcombe questioned these experts on their action steps regarding expanding the programs and the reach of the programs to larger populations.

“We offer a portfolio of bachelor’s, master’s as well as certificate programs focused on upskilling and reskilling the workforce. Our BSN (Prelicensure) program, and the nursing labs that are a part of the program, focus on students aspiring to start their career in nursing, whereas our other programs—for example, the nurse practitioner and non-nursing programs—help them advance their careers to attain higher positions in the industry,” said Janelle Sokolowich, LSH academic vice president and dean.

The school’s innovative and affordable programs aim to advance equity in the health and higher education sectors to address and ease the nursing crisis as well as the infrastructure challenges that restrict addition of more nurses to the workflow.

“To witness change, we must first create pathways. We cannot fix inequity by repeating what’s always been done. We must remove barriers and put in support systems, like wrap-around services, to encourage working adults pursue education without disrupting their lives,” said Kimberly Kelly-Cortez, LSH senior associate dean and director of programs (Prelicensure). “Our Prelicensure program is specifically designed to realize that we do not pull from the workforce while creating the workforce.”

Established in 2006 with the mission to make a difference in the fields of healthcare, nursing, and higher education through competency-based education, LSH has educated 2% of the nation’s registered nurses, representing more than 170,000 jobs in the healthcare industry, according to a Utah Foundation Research Brief. More than 20,000 students are currently enrolled at LSH and more than 100,000 have successfully graduated. Learn more at Leavitt School of Health’s web page. 

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