While there's a shortage of nurses around the area and country, there's also a shortage of prospective nurses. That shortage of students enrolled in that program led to the temporary suspension of the program in Centerville.

However, the high school health and sciences program is held safe, given its broader focus to health careers beyond nursing. In fact, numbers for the upcoming year indicate a growth and expansion of the program in Centerville.

Indian Hills Community College announced Wednesday they’d be suspending the practical nursing and associate degree nursing programs on the Centerville campus for at least one year. They cited a lack of numbers and data they’ve made available appears to back that up.

Ten students enrolled in the LPN program in Centerville in 2017 and 2018. For the upcoming program, slated to begin this summer, only three students had been accepted. Students who were accepted have been reached by an IHCC advisor to develop an appropriate plan.

The lack of students entering these nursing courses mirrors a national trend that sees hospitals, nursing homes and other health providers struggling to staff their nursing departments.

“There is a national shortage of nurses and all hospitals have experienced that for some time,” said Sherri Doggett, the Chief Nursing Officer at MercyOne Centerville Medical Center. “Enrollment in nursing programs are not meeting the demand needed.”

MercyOne in Centerville has used the program at Indian Hills for some time as a “feeder program” for the hospital. Other businesses have used it as well for the same reason.

The Centerville hospital will continue to be a clinical site for the program.

“The biggest impact may be the inconvenience of travel and whether that is a deterrent for future students,” Doggett said. “Regardless of where the program is located, it is more important to have a program that generates quality nurses.”

The nursing program has been a quality program, judging by the program’s graduation rate as well as the number of students who go on to pass their Iowa Board of Nursing exams.

But for economic reasons, the college has peered at the program on both the Ottumwa and Centerville campus. After increased marketing efforts, officials said, the Ottumwa campus’ nursing programs have seen an uptick in registrations.

The college will review enrollment figures for next year to determine whether the program will return to Centerville for the 2020 summer term.

Later this summer, college officials will be brainstorming on ways to grow the program for future years.

“That would give us some time to do some planning and hear what their ideas are,” said Matt Thompson, a vice president for academic affairs and institutional effectiveness at IHCC. “And then really get out with high school students and the prospective student population and talk about the re-launch of the program, continuing the marketing efforts and go from there.”

The quick drop in nursing enrollment may partially, as well, be attributed to recent admissions standards change at Indian Hills. Thompson said typically after such a change, colleges see program enrollment rebound after a couple of years as students become accustomed to the new guidelines.

Some new ideas have been in the works. For instance, students who take the college’s career academy program offered to area high schools automatically qualify for a $1,000 if the move on to take courses at Indian Hills Community College.

HIGH SCHOOL HEALTH PROGRAM GROWING

Safe from the program suspension in Centerville is the Rathbun Area Career Academy’s health sciences program. In fact, the program’s numbers are growing.

The program allows area students to spend half the school day their junior and senior years of high school in the program. The program, though, does not focus specifically on nursing. It’s designed to offer a stepping stone into a wide variety of health programs.

Students can become a certified nursing assistant one year after the program if they choose. CPNs are in high demand in the area, officials say.

The program also includes building blocks for students to elevate into the nursing program. However, many other health careers can be pursued, from occupational therapy to chiropractic care and more.

Each section of the program can hold about 24 students. Early numbers indicate the first-year of the program will need a second section.

From Centerville High School alone, about 20 new students have signed on for the program next year.

The nursing program’s suspension in Centerville will not have any effect on high school students involved in the health sciences academy, college and Centerville Community School District officials confirmed.

CENTERVILLE CAMPUS IS HEALTHY

The nursing program’s suspension in Centerville may just be a one-year move for the college, that’s what officials are hoping for.

But overall, enrollment at the IHCC Centerville campus is up, Thomason said. The college is also moving programs and making improvements to the campus.

“This is a great campus,” Thompson said. “This campus has got a lot of positive impact on this region. We’re not going to close the campus.”

The college has recently updated the industrial technology facility on the Centerville campus. They’ve also beefed up the agricultural program in Centerville, which includes courses for precision farming, landscaping and turf, and animal science.

Kyle Ocker is the editor of the Daily Iowegian and can be reached at kocker@dailyiowegian.com or by calling (641) 856-6336. Follow him on Twitter @Kyle_Ocker

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