Preparing the Next Generation of Nurses

Access to healthcare in northern Arizona depends greatly on access to qualified, well-trained professionals. The magnitude of the nationwide nursing shortage--according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), nearly 65,000 qualified applicants were turned away from undergraduate and graduate nursing programs in 2016—is felt deeply in the region, particularly in rural areas.

AACN’s report stated a lack of instructors and classroom space were significant contributing factors to the shortage. The organization cited budget constraints—compensation for nursing instructors often falls far below what nurses earn in clinical settings, for instance—as a critical factor in keeping admissions to nursing programs low.

The Northern Arizona Healthcare Foundation is addressing some of these issues by awarding funds to ensure the graduates of the nursing programs at Northern Arizona University (NAU) and Coconino Community College (CCC) have the instruction and tools they need to provide excellent care.

With a $90,000 grant, the Foundation supports a faculty position at NAU that manages seven simulation labs at the four NAU campuses with nursing programs (Flagstaff, Fort Defiance, Tucson, and Yuma). The three Flagstaff labs, which are all on the NAU main campus, also provide space for Flagstaff Medical Center staff to train.

Nicole Harris, assistant to the dean of the College of Health and Human Services at NAU, explains the simulation labs give students the opportunity to experience the situations they will encounter as nurses in a sheltered atmosphere.

“It provides a safe environment to apply theory to practice,” she said. “It provides them a safe place for them to make mistakes and learn.”

The $100,000 Foundation grant awarded to CCC provided funds for two similar aims. Scott Talboom, CCC’s executive director of institutional advancement, explains the grant helps the organization retain talented faculty and purchase top-of-the-line equipment for nurse and EMS student training.

“Financial assistance allows the College to retain high-quality teaching staff who prepare students to work in the field of healthcare in northern Arizona,” he said. “Support from the Foundation is critical to the success of our students.”

Sandra KowalskiComment