Southwestern Michigan College Makes Nursing School More Affordable

Southwestern Michigan College Enhances Affordability of Nursing School

Two Michigan nursing programs receive $2 million to facilitate ADN to BSN program transition. The initiative aims to boost nursing student enrollment and elevate the count of BSN-prepared nurses in the state.

Two Michigan colleges recently secured a $2 million grant from the Sixty by 30 office, established by the Michigan Department of Lifelong Education, Advancement, and Potential (MiLEAP). As a result, Southwestern Michigan College (SMC) in Dowagiac and Andrews University in nearby Berrien Springs will collaborate to create affordable nursing education programs to support nursing students at SMC.

The primary goal is to streamline the connection between schools and programs, providing more cost-effective training to nurses in response to Michigan’s ongoing shortage, according to program officials.

“This grant opportunity enables SMC to expand our vision of ‘Knowledge For All’ by providing our nursing graduates with the chance to advance their education and careers at a reduced cost through a local university partner,” said Melissa Kennedy DNP, dean of the SMC School of Nursing, in a statement.

The Sixty by 30 program also includes an initiative that covers the cost of training and tuition for individuals pursuing an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or skills certificate.

Specifically, the funding will prepare students to move from SMC’s ADN program to Andrews University’s bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program. The funds will support recruitment efforts, staffing and faculty increases, and financial infusions for tutoring services. Officials noted that many healthcare institutions are seeking nurses with higher levels of education — a trend in line with the new joint program.

MiLEAP is dedicated to enhancing life in Michigan by bridging skills gaps between potential employees and businesses in need of skilled individuals beyond high school graduates. The organization offers funding to boost access to education and skills development, ultimately making Michigan more competitive for inclusive economic growth.

The Michigan Nurse Shortage: Increasing the Pipeline, Increasing the Pool

Program officials hope the higher number of BSN-trained nurses can help stem the state’s nursing shortage, which is worsening. According to a study from the University of Michigan39% of nurses currently employed in Michigan intend to leave their jobs within the next year.

The study’s most troublesome numbers may have come from younger nurses who reported plans to leave their jobs in droves. According to the researchers, the COVID-19 pandemic was not the primary cause for these nurses leaving.

“Many health care leaders think that the COVID pandemic will ease and the workforce burden will ease also,” said study lead author Christopher Friese. “But nurses are telling us that they’re leaving because of the unsafe working conditions and chronic understaffing that predated the pandemic. It made an already bad and unsafe situation even worse.”

In addition to helping address the shortage, the collaboration between an ADN and BSN program is expected to raise the number of BSN-prepared nurses in the workforce.

In 2010, a growing body of evidence suggested that BSN-prepared nurses were associated with better patient outcomes, which prompted the National Academy of Medicine to recommend that by 2020, 80% of the nursing workforce should have a BSN degree or higher.

Data continues to show that, as technology and patient care become more complex, BSN-prepared nurses are associated with significantly fewer deathshospital readmissions, and shorter hospital stays. New collaborations between ADN and BSN programs can help increase the number of BSN-prepared nurses to meet the goal of better patient outcomes while providing more affordable nursing schools.

New Program Slated to Begin This Fall

SMC plans to have new options and enhancements for the student cohort starting in the fall of 2024. Technology upgrades, a tutoring program, and advisors will be available. The school of nursing also hopes to bolster recruitment with the promise of a collaborative effort to easily transition students from an ADN to a BSN program.

Additional support and education also meet MiLEAP goals, which include increasing the number of working-age adults with a college degree or certificate from 50.5% to 60% by 2030.

Incoming or current students who wish to apply will find the application process is free and does not require essays or letters of recommendation. Admission eligibility requirements include a high school diploma or GED certificate and a criminal background check. While these are the minimum admission criteria for SMC, they do not guarantee admission into the ADN program.

The nursing staffing crisis delineates the myriad concerns nurses cite as reasons for dissatisfaction with the profession — or leaving it altogether. Programs that remove impediments from the training pipeline offer powerful new opportunities for recruitment, retention, and training.

“The state of Michigan asked community colleges to find an appropriate partner to help build these bridges between the RN programs and the BSN programs,” SMC Provost Dave Fleming told local news outlet Moody on the Market. “Andrews has been a good partner for a number of other things, but this specific program will start because of this grant.”

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