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NH community colleges work to address nursing shortage

Published: Oct. 19, 2021 at 2:39 PM EDT
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CLAREMONT, N.H. (WCAX) - New Hampshire’s River Valley Community College is looking to expand its LPN nursing program in order to address what health care officials say is a dire workforce shortage.

The health care industry is facing a nationwide shortage of employees in pretty much every field and that extends throughout our region. Enter Connie Bryan, who is among those studying to become a registered nurse at River Valley Community College in Claremont.

“I definitely had the thought, Oh, I am applying to nursing school in the middle of a pandemic -- when all you hear is how tired and overworked and underpaid nurses are,” Bryan said.

RN’s are one of many jobs that hospitals across the region are looking to fill. Lab techs, respiratory therapists, and licensed practical nurses are some of the others. “There are just not enough people to fill the open positions,” said the college’s Eileen Glover.

There are a variety of factors causing the shortage, including a graying population in the region that requires more care. And while educators say the number of students interested in entering the health care field is up, there are not enough faculty to teach them. “We are limited in the amount of students we can take because of the lack of resources on the education side,” Glover said.

Because of that, River Valley is creating a new partnership with other schools in New Hampshire’s community college system, to grow its LPN program. “These are going to be River Valley students and they are going to be located on the White Mountains Community College Campus,” explained WMCC’s Sarah Baillargeon. That campus is located in Littleton.

LPNs need just a year of training to get their certificate. Starting pay can be between $20 to $30 an hour. And as hospitals get creative to make sure all patients are cared for, LPNs are spending more time at bedsides. The expanded program brings the classroom closer to home.

“We have to, you know, circle around people who want to become nurses and help guide them into the pathways that can meet their needs also,” Baillargeon said. She said it gives them an opportunity to get their foot in the door to further their careers.

That’s something that future RN Connie Bryan is also thinking about. “Not only can I go on to get more education, but the jobs that I can get right out of school are there and they are going to pay me and they are going to pay me well,” Bryan said.

The community college is hoping to double the size of its LPN program next year to 80 students. Officials say 280 have already applied.

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