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NDMU launches fast-track degrees to help fill nursing vacancies

Baltimore Business Journal

November 10, 2020


Amid an ongoing pandemic and national nurse shortage, Notre Dame of Maryland University has decided to launch a pair of accelerated bachelor's degree programs in nursing.

The offerings from the Baltimore university fast-track the typical timeframe it takes to earn a bachelor of science degree in nursing. The programs allow students who already hold degrees in other fields to earn a four-year nursing degree and prepare for the National Council Licensure Examination's registered nurse exam in just 15 months, through either all on-campus coursework or a hybrid in-person and online learning model.

Kathleen Wisser, dean of the university’s School of Nursing, said the school has been looking for new ways to address a growing workforce shortage in nursing. She pointed to national demand for registered nurses, which is expected to grow by 12% by 2028, compared to 7% growth across all occupations, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Maryland is expected to need 10,000 nurses in the next 10 years, particularly in hospitals and skilled nursing facilities, and in Baltimore specifically there are currently more than 5,000 live job postings for registered nurse positions, the college noted. Notre Dame saw an opportunity to increase the number of degree-holding nurses among its students who had already completed other paths of study.

"We know we need more trained nurses in the pipeline," Wissner said. "We wanted to develop a faster program for those second-degree bachelors students, who probably don't need to take another round of general education courses."

Wissner added that the Covid-19 pandemic has further highlighted the huge demand for skilled nurses and the potentially damaging impacts of workforce shortages on health care systems. The challenges of the pandemic and the obvious strains it has put on health care workers has increased worry in the industry that young people will not want to enter nursing or other medical fields, she said. Wissner thinks offering the opportunity to gain a nursing degree through flexible learning formats without excess coursework will be even more valuable now.

Notre Dame's new degree programs are supported by up to $1 million in grant funding from the Maryland Higher Education Commission, which is actively supporting local efforts to shrink the nursing workforce gap. Many Maryland hospitals require that nurses have a bachelor's degree or be working toward a degree to be hired, Wissner said.