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Idaho State and Kootenai Health join forces to meet statewide demand for nurses

Nurses in scrubs at Kootenai Health in Coeur d'Alene, ID

Coeur d'Alene, ID - July 27, 2023

Idaho State University and Kootenai Health have partnered in an effort to address the ongoing critical nursing shortage in North Idaho.

This partnership allows North Idaho students completing ISU’s Accelerated Bachelor of Nursing (ABSN) program to complete their required clinical experiences at Kootenai Health facilities in the Coeur d’Alene area.  ISU has reserved 10 seats in its 12-month ABSN program for Coeur d’Alene area students during the partnership's first year, with intentions to grow to meet additional demand. 

ISU’s ABSN program currently offers up to 50 seats a year for students in the Treasure Valley/Meridian area and 40 seats a year to students in the Pocatello/Idaho Falls region, with local clinical experiences available in these areas, as well. Following completion of prerequisite courses, students with a bachelor's degree in another discipline are eligible to enter the ABSN program, receiving accelerated education and training to become a nurse. 

The collaboration between ISU and Kootenai Health addresses a growing demand across the state and the nation for nurses graduating with a baccalaureate degree — nurses who are prepared to take the required exam, called the National Council Licensure Exam (NCEX-RN), and move into practice as a registered nurse.

More registered nurses are needed to support staffing and safe patient outcomes across clinical settings, and baccalaureate prepared nurses are in high demand in Idaho. Employers across Idaho’s rural areas have experienced difficulty filling vacant positions because of significant nursing shortages in the state, and in the nation. Temporary, traveling nurses have been increasingly hired to fill nursing shortages in Idaho. 

A report compiled by the Idaho Nursing Workforce Center at the Idaho Center for Nursing projects Idaho’s shortage of RN’s ranges between 106-523 annually through 2024. Compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and the strain it has placed on all health care sectors, Idaho’s nursing profession also faces retirements of a large number of the incumbent workforce, adding to the shortage. Currently, 29 percent of Idaho’s nurses are 55 years or older, 3 percent of those are 65 years or older. There is an ever-increasing population of older adults also. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 10,000 people turn 65-years old every day nationally, which further increases the demand for compassionate and caring nursing care.

Increasing enrollment in nursing programs is a key strategy to address this growing issue in the state. The ABSN program at ISU offers the opportunity for individuals who hold a bachelor’s degree in another discipline to make a career change and enter the nursing profession —and to do so while remaining in their local community. The program is three semesters (one year) in length, including one summer semester. ISU courses and clinical learning opportunities are provided to students online and at Kootenai Health and across the panhandle region, including urban and rural placements.

“We are pleased to welcome ISU’s nursing students to beautiful northern Idaho, and to our health system,” said Kelly Espinoza, chief nursing officer for Kootenai Health. “We are committed to providing a learning environment that leads to the utmost success for these students, which ultimately translates into improved patient care for those we serve.”

The Accelerated Baccalaureate Nursing program started serving students in Meridian in 2002, and has grown to meet increasing demand in the Treasure Valley. Over 550 students have graduated from the program since its inception, many of whom remained in the area, helping to fill part of the shortage for nurses. Pass rates on the national examination for RN’s (NCLEX-RN) have been high, and students are employed across various settings including hospitals, clinics, long term care, and public health among other areas.

“We are excited by this inaugural named partnership with Kootenai Health, and understand that we could not have offered this innovative program without their support and collaboration,” said Teresa Conner, dean for the College of Health at ISU. “ It truly opens doors for accelerated nursing education and the ability to address the critical nursing shortage in North Idaho.”

Kootenai Health provides comprehensive medical services to patients in northern Idaho and the Inland Northwest. Its main campus is located in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho and includes a hospital licensed for up to 397 beds. Kootenai is accredited by DNV. It holds Magnet designation for nursing excellence, Level III Trauma Center designation, Level III NICU designation, and accreditation from the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer. 

To learn more about the ABSN program and ISU’s partnership with Kootenai Health, visit https://www.isu.edu/nursing/programs/accelerated-bachelor-of-science-in-nursing/ 

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