SPOKANE, Wash. — There’s a critical shortage of nurses, but unlike past nursing shortages, this one is not going away any time soon. The Intercollegiate College of Nursing/Washington State University College of Nursing is giving hundreds of nonpracticing registered nurses a quick avenue back into a high demand profession.

The College of Nursing offers a registered nurse refresher course that can be completed in six to 12 months. The course has been offered as part of the continuing education and professional development curriculum since 1993.

According to Carol Johns, professional development coordinator and College of Nursing faculty member, the refresher course is the only such self-paced course available in Washington. The majority of the 60 students enrolled in the course are from Washington, but other participants come from Alaska, Mississippi and California.

“The current nursing shortage puts skilled nurses in high demand,” Johns said. “Getting nurses who are licensed or have been licensed in the past back into active nursing is one solution to a problem that will reach crisis levels within the next 10 years.”

Washington requires professional nurses who have been inactive for three years or whose license has lapsed to complete an approved nurse refresher course to regain an active nursing license. Other states have similar requirements.

“We have seen a significant increase in enrollment during the past several months due to the nursing shortage situation in Washington and elsewhere,” Johns said.

The home-study format allows students to finish on their own schedule. The course consists of medical surgical nursing theory, a health assessment and skills review, and a nurse-precepted clinical experience in a facility located in the student’s geographic area. The cost of the course and materials is about $1,600.

There are some 60,000 licensed registered nurses in Washington. The average age of practicing nurses is between 44 and 45. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the demand for nursing professionals at all levels will outstrip the supply by the year 2010. The nation will need roughly 1.8 million registered nurses. Only about 600,000 will be practicing, which means that in 2010, two of three nursing positions will be vacant. Nursing is the largest health care profession nationally, regionally and locally. Exacerbating the shortage is a forecast showing 50 percent of the current workforce retiring over the next 15 years.

“Rising demand, opportunities to practice in varied settings and an aging population has given rise to nursing opportunities inside and beyond the hospital setting,” Johns said. “The shortage has definitely increased professional opportunities for nurses. This is a great time to reenter professional nursing, and we’re providing a convenient and affordable way to do just that.”

For more information on the refresher course or other professional development classes offered by the College of Nursing, contact Johns at 509/324-7354 or cjohns@wsu.edu For more information about the college, visit the Web site at www.nursing.wsu.edu

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