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Nursing consortium attempts to reduce shortage of rural nurses

NEWPORT, AR (KAIT) – More remote areas around Arkansas have experienced a shortage of nurses, so a group of community colleges has joined together to address the need.

Eight two-year colleges created the Arkansas Rural Nursing Education Consortium, or ARNEC, in 2007. The Arkansas State University campus in Newport is part of this cooperative effort to create more Registered Nurses, or RNs, in rural areas. The students are approaching their nursing education in a novel way.

“I had to take the step, step number one, going to LPN school,” Marcy Smith of Newport said, “and this is my second step is to get my RN.”

Every Tuesday and Thursday evening, Smith spends five hours in a classroom at ASU-Newport.

“You can study and be a good nurse and pass your test, but you can also be a good mom and be a good wife,” Smith said about balancing her priorities.

The classes stretch from 3:30 to 8:30 p.m. two days a week, and she attends clinical rotations on the weekends. Her classes, however, are often led from a screen, as her teacher broadcasts live from one of the ARNEC sites.

“If we ask a question – they’re from Ozarka which is in Melbourne, the teacher if she’s lecturing from there – the camera will come to ASU-Newport,” Smith said.

More than 200 students watch the interactive lectures at one time, taking notes and responding to questions through a complex video conferencing system. Each student entered the program to prepare for the RN licensing exam, the NCLEX-RN.

“It’s convenient for people that have daytime jobs,” Scott Cowell said, “and it has a very high success rate, over 90 percent pass rate on the NCLEX-RN.”

Cowell is director of nursing at ASU-Newport. He is also a program chair for ARNEC, which began in 2007 to meet a growing demand for RNs in the state’s rural areas.

“They attend classes twice a week in the evenings, and they generally do one day a week clinical rotations on the weekend,” Cowell added about the program’s flexibility.

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posted in: Arkansas, National, news, Employer News
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