Health care system requires more nurses

Gov. Terry Branstad, in his 2013 “Condition of the State” address, emphasized the need to make Iowa the healthiest state in the nation by ensuring Iowa communities have access to health care professionals.

In July/August 2009, Dr. Peter Beurhaus and co-authors published an article in Health Affairs magazine in which they stated that despite current easing of the nursing shortage due to recession, the United States nursing shortage is projected to grow to 25,000 registered nurses by the year 2025. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics further reported that career paths in nursing will increase by 26 percent in the next 10 years.

Iowa Central Community College currently has 252 nursing students in programs located on the Fort Dodge Campus, Storm Lake, and Webster City centers. The 115 ADN and 57 LPN students who graduated from Iowa Central in 2012 have demonstrated their quality of preparation through their National Licensure Council Examination scores. The pass rate for these Iowa Central RN students was 92 percent and 97 percent for LPN students, which places Iowa Central above the national average of 89 percent.

The new first year Dean of Health Sciences Trina Staton, MSN, said: “the nursing faculty is a big part of the success. The 11 full-time faculty members have over 100 years of experience in nursing education.” Staton brings a wealth of experience to this leadership position with 25 years of nursing duties which include intensive care, home health care, case management and wound/ostomy/continence care. Prior to taking on her new role as dean, Trina was an instructor in the Iowa Central Nursing Program for 10 years and, for the last two years, has served as the program coordinator.

Within the Iowa Central Health Science Departments, visitors will find remodeled and updated facilities as well as several new personnel. The remodeling and expansion of the Fort Dodge facility was completed in 2010. The Webster City project was accomplished in 2011 and the Storm Lake remodeling was finished last summer in time for this year’s fall classes. All of these projects have resulted in increased classroom/laboratory space with the inclusion of simulation mannequins. These mannequins can be programmed to mimic varied breathing patterns and heart sounds along with a wide variety of symptoms that a living patient would exhibit. This simulation allows students to experience a variety of situations in a controlled environment before caring for patients in the clinical portion of their classes. As Sofia Naces, a current student, said: “It is helpful to be able to practice some life-like scenarios without the pressure/stress of a real patient.” Current student Abbi Egli added: “This is an excellent experience because we are in a non-stressful environment learning skills we may not see on our clinical floors before graduation.” Currently Fort Dodge has three mannequins with an additional one located in both Webster City and Storm Lake. Future plans are to increase the simulation capabilities at all three centers as they provide invaluable learning experiences and enhance the college’s ability to meet the needs of the future work force.

“Hands-on” patient working experience is provided to students at Iowa Central’s clinical site through Trinity Regional Medical Center, Mary Greeley Medical Center, Van Diest Medical Center, Iowa Specialty Hospitals-Clarion, Buena Vista Medical Center, Loring Hospital, Community Family Resources, Cherokee Mental Health Institute, Stewart Memorial Community Hospital, Friendship Haven Health Center, Marian Home, Humboldt Community Memorial Hospital and Methodist Manor. Additionally, these sites employ the majority of Iowa Central nursing graduates.

A goal of Iowa Central is to keep all programs viable and fresh by infusing new ideas and staying current with employer needs. The Nursing Program was very fortunate to have recently hired three exceptional faculty members to assist in meeting this goal. Robin Isabell, a new pediatrics nursing instructor, came to Iowa Central in the fall of 2011 with 20 years of experience in neonatal intensive care, labor and delivery and emergency medicine. Another new instructor, Heidi Clark, started in the fall of 2012 as the adult health care (medical/surgical) nursing instructor. Her background includes being a health coach, neonatal intensive care and labor and delivery. The department also welcomed Kay Cleveland this fall as the new mental health instructor. Cleveland, a graduate of the Iowa Central Nursing Program, proceeded to attain a master’s degree in nursing and has been a nurse practitioner in mental health for 17 years.

According to Sue Thompson, chief executive officer of Trinity Health Systems, “Iowa Central’s nursing program is a key enabler for sustaining acute and long-term health care services, not only to Fort Dodge, but to rural Iowa. We are especially thankful for the quality nursing programs at Iowa Central and the opportunity to employ its graduates.” Statistics show that currently 75 percent of Trinity Regional’s RNs (200) are Iowa Central graduates.

With the renovation of facilities complete and a strong succession plan in place, the Iowa Central Health Science Division is poised to provide the region with health care professionals well into the future.

David Grosland is vice president of instruction at Iowa Central Community College.