Demand for Nurses Leads OHSU to Expand Nursing Program to Central Oregon

OHSU is broadening its nursing career preparation program for students with an accelerated schedule to now include Bend, expanding its offerings beyond Portland and Ashland.

Bend will mark the third location for OHSU’s accelerated bachelor’s degree program, which has already seen the graduation of 128 students in the previous academic year, anticipating even more graduates this year, with an initial group of eight students set to start in July.

Central Oregon is in need of more nurses, and OHSU’s School of Nursing aims to address this shortage by offering an intensive 15-month program for individuals with a previous bachelor’s degree in a different field to transition into a nursing career, especially as the demand for nurses grows due to retirements, pandemic-related exits, and increased healthcare needs in the region.

The launch of the nursing program in Bend involved collaboration between OHSU, Central Oregon Community College, and St. Charles Health System in response to the longstanding need for more nursing professionals in the region, where St. Charles operates hospitals and clinics, including the sole level two trauma center in the area.

St. Charles’ Chief Nursing Executive Joan Ching highlighted the community’s demand for more nurses post-pandemic, emphasizing the importance of preparing healthcare professionals to meet local needs through initiatives like OHSU’s new program in Bend.

This program, situated at Central Oregon Community College’s campus, offers students a unique opportunity to switch careers swiftly by leveraging their diverse backgrounds and academic experiences, setting a solid foundation for a fulfilling career in the nursing profession.

Susan Bakewell Sachs, dean of the OHSU School of Nursing, emphasized the program’s alignment with the region’s needs, underscoring the collaborative efforts to offer a valuable educational pathway not previously available in central Oregon.

With a focus on experiential learning, nursing students at St. Charles Health System will gain firsthand experience in various medical settings, paving the way for future specialization and career growth within the healthcare field.

Nurses graduating from the program who obtain their license will have the opportunity to join St. Charles Health System’s residency program, providing additional training and mentorship as they embark on their nursing careers, often transitioning to specialized fields after gaining foundational experience.

Central Oregon Community College’s existing registered nurse program and the upcoming bachelor’s degree program in nursing will cater to different student cohorts, offering diverse pathways for individuals interested in pursuing a career in healthcare.

Julie Downing, an instructional dean at COCC, expressed enthusiasm for the collaboration between OHSU and the community college, recognizing the opportunity to cater to a wider range of students seeking nursing education.

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