Meeting a Need: OCTC makes efforts to expand nursing program

·2 min read

Oct. 12—As area hospitals have experienced nursing shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic, Owensboro Community and Technical College has worked to recruit more nursing students.

In January, OCTC resumed admitting nursing students twice a year, a practice it discontinued in the spring of 2018, when it went to an annual admission schedule that increased the size of the class to keep the program's enrollment the same, about 50-70 students annually, according to Bernie Hale, OCTC public relations director, and Lori Donahoo, OCTC director of nursing.

With the most recent change in the admission schedule, enrollment has expanded to 80-100 students annually.

"We were getting more calls from local employers that they wanted more nurses, and then we also were lucky enough that we were able to find qualified folks to hire to be able to staff up so we could take the additional cohort in January," Hale said.

Donahoo said the nursing program at OCTC has created several new programs in recent months that have allowed it to be more accessible to anyone interested in it and to create more hands-on community involvement for students in the program.

She said last spring, the school began its "Fast Pass to Nursing" program for high school students. It allows them to take dual credit courses needed to be admitted into the nursing program in an effort to get them enrolled immediately after graduation.

"We're hoping that we can get them prepared to enter as soon as they graduate," Donahoo said.

The school also just started the "OCTC Nursing IV League," a student-led club that allows students to volunteer in a health care capacity in the community, whether it is leading a blood drive or holding a health fair.

Students are also volunteering at local vaccine clinics to help administer COVID-19 vaccines "to help with the pandemic and help our facilities to be able to have a little relief and assistance," said Donahoo.

She said the school has also increased its outreach efforts in the community, offering camps and hands-on activity days for younger-age demographics to help children learn more about the health field and nursing, specifically, and potentially drive interest.

Donahoo said while the school is working to recruit new students, it is also placing a strong focus on current students to ensure they're getting the instruction and assistance they need to succeed in the program, by providing nursing tutors, one-on-one remediation with instructors and an allied health success coach.

"The program is rigorous," Donahoo said. "We have made a definite concerted effort to enhance our student support once they get in the program, because of that.

"We want to recruit new students, but we also want our students in the program to succeed and do well and graduate."

Christie Netherton, cnetherton@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7360

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