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OU-Murray State agreement latest in Oklahoma fight against nursing shortage

nursing shortage
Posted at 9:40 PM, Feb 08, 2023

OKLAHOMA CITY — OU College of Nursing announced a new partnership with Murray State College Wednesday designed to boost enrollment. It’s the latest strategy to address Oklahoma's critical shortage of nurses. It's also an emphasis of state lawmakers.

“We need our universities to meet the nursing needs of our hospitals,” Gov. Kevin Stitt remarked during Monday's State of The State. His demands were echoed by Speaker of the House Rep. Charles McCall (R-Atoka) on Wednesday.

“People are literally dying because we do not have enough medical professionals,” McCall said.

The announcement is a pipeline program for students from the junior college to earn their Bachelor’s degree at OU and acceptance into the Ziegler College of Nursing, thus churning out more qualified nurses than ever in the Sooner state.

“The nursing shortage is the number one priority for most healthcare systems in the nation,” Saint Francis Health Chief HR Officer Jamie Payne told 2 News. Saint Francis – the biggest health system in Green Country – is currently greater than 600 nurses short of ideal nursing staff, a gap not likely to be bridged from nursing school graduates alone, according to Payne.

“We’re becoming creative with our recruitment strategies to grow our own. We’re also seeking international recruitment initiatives,” Payne said.

Another goal of Gov. Stitt has been to raise base pay for Oklahoma nurses, which Saint Francis has done by 31% in the last 18 months, according to Payne.

In Hillcrest HealthCare System, Elizabeth Sparks said keeping nurses who have stuck through the worst of the pandemic is also crucial.

“They’ve been through a lot in the last three years, and we need to make sure that we’re supporting them as we bring them into our facility," said Sparks, who's Chief Nursing Officer of Tulsa Spine & Specialty Hospital. "We have a culture that is incredibly supportive. And knowing that we can bring them in and let them perform their job the way that they want to, and give them that environment to provide them the care that drove them into nursing in the first place.”

Both women said their respective health systems are expanding their own pipeline programs with universities and high schools, and hope to see payoffs as early as this summer with the next graduating class.

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