Central Michigan University officials might be doubling down on healthcare instruction with a potential nursing program.
Discussions on the subject are still in the early stages and no formal proposal has been established, but the potential for a nursing program at CMU is being evaluated by university officials as a key component to Vice President of Enrollment and Student Services Steven Johnson’s enrollment management plan.
In his plan, Johnson detailed the need for new high-demand programs with lucrative career prospects that are attractive to prospective students.
If the discussions do move forward into a proposal, a CMU program could include training for registered nursing certification, and a four-year baccalaureate nursing degree. In addition, a CMU nursing program might also include a Bachelor’s of Science completion pathway for registered nurses with associate’s degrees.
Provost Michael Gealt, who took questions about a nursing program during the Oct. 8 Academic Senate meeting, already has some background in nursing administration education – in his last position, Gealt was heavily involved with getting a similar RN-to-BSN program off the ground at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
The prospect of a nursing program has been brought up by the College of Health Professional Services over the past decade during former Provost Gary Shapiro’s term. However, calls for such a program were seemingly dismissed, according to Orlando Perez, a political science faculty member and Academic senator.
Notwithstanding, the university did give nursing a deeper look in 2006, resulting in a RN-to-BSN Needs Assessment Project spearheaded by sociology professor Mary Senter and CMU’s Center for Applied Research and Rural Studies. The project produced a report detailing the kind of interest prospective nurses would have in the university and the feasibility of the venture.
When asked about the renewed interest in nursing instruction, Gealt said the conversation and the components involved are still hypothetical works in progress.
“We’re planning on having a committee in place soon to establish and evaluate if nursing is a direction we should be moving in,” Gealt said at the Oct. 8 A-Senate meeting. “There will be no program proposal without the proper analysis. There is a competing program in the area. I happened to visit that campus recently and we spoke about their expansion and the way they are going.”
One of the competing programs is at Mid Michigan Community College, which has a nursing instruction facility in Mount Pleasant. According to Gealt, having another nursing program in the same city could pose unnecessary competition for the same pool of students, prompting officials to remain cautious on their rhetoric at this point.
Yet the presence of a nursing program at CMU could do more regional good than harm, according to Matthew Miller, vice president of student and community relations at MMCC.
“We have an excellent relationship with CMU, but because they have no BSN completion program, we’ve partnered with other institutions instead,” Miller said. “We would be very interested to partner with CMU. What we have here in Mount Pleasant is a great program that trains local talent in a local setting – it would make sense for us to partner like that.”
MMCC’s nursing program has been in operation since the ’60s, Miller explained, and such a partnership could give added influence to CMU’s plans. Miller added that many students would be interested in attending a completion program locally.
CMU might have an interested student body, but building a nursing program from the ground up is no easy task, according to Mike Hansen, president of the Michigan Community College Association.
“A big piece of this is the accreditation process, which can be a three-year process,” Hansen said. “That includes state nursing board authorization, as well as national and specialized accreditation. You’ll also need clinical sites. Starting a new program from scratch often has some big challenges.”
Another burden might be a lack of interested and qualified faculty.
“Certainly for the university level, the main thing that they might say is that they can’t find faculty,” Hansen said. “Typically, at the community college level, the faculty can be adjunct. They can teach only a class or two if they want. The working conditions are very different from the working environment at a university. At a university, there’s a larger focus on research, publishing and working committees.”
Miller agrees with Hansen’s assertion.
“You may be able to find qualified nurses, but maybe those people would rather be out there working making much more money in the industry than teaching,” Miller said.
According to Gealt, these challenges are all factors university officials are weighing as they move forward, in addition to citing large expenses in terms of staff and facilities.
He also said CMU does not have the vacant educational space for a full, on-campus nursing program and that required, local clinical experiences are substantially limited. However, the provost predicts he would have a clearer picture on the nursing prospect in about five weeks.
Check back with Central Michigan Life for continued updates on the nursing program.