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Stimulus Funding Aids Efforts to Improve Nursing in Wyoming


March 31, 2011 — The Wyoming Center for Nursing and Health Care Partnerships (WCNHCP) was created to help lead the charge to strengthen the statewide nursing workforce.

A $280,000 injection of federal stimulus funds, allocated to the University of Wyoming through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, has enabled the center to fully carry out its mission.

"Without this funding, I'd basically be sitting at my desk working on a website," says Matt Sholty, who coordinates the center, housed inside the UW College of Health Sciences.

"And," he adds, "the RENEW program wouldn't have even been a thought."

RENEW (Revolutionizing Nursing Education in Wyoming), a joint partnership between the WCNHCP, the Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing at UW, Wyoming's community colleges and health care organizations throughout the state, aims to enhance the quality of nursing by developing a shared, competency-based statewide curriculum.

In the program, prospective nurses would be able to earn an associate degree or continue seamlessly to a BSN degree (or higher) at UW or any of the state's seven community colleges. The courses needed for BSN completion through the university will be available through distance delivery.

"The Institute of Medicine recently released a seminal study on the Future of Nursing that calls for 80 percent of nurses to have baccalaureate degrees by 2020," says Mary Burman, dean of the UW nursing school. "There is tremendous excitement around the state for RENEW as one of the key strategies to meet this goal in Wyoming."

The federal stimulus funding has also helped the WCNHCP establish the Nursing Education Summit, a three-day conference in May that brings together nurses and nursing educators from across the Cowboy State. The first summit last year attracted 75 professionals; Sholty has greater expectations for this year's event, May 22-24 in Casper.

"What we want is for employers to get together and say, ‘This is what we need in a nurse,'" he says.

The RENEW program was born from a presentation by the Oregon Consortium for Nursing Education at last year's summit.

Though Oregon needed 10 years to implement its version of RENEW, Sholty says Wyoming has a shorter timeline.

"We're shooting for five years," he says.

The WCNHCP also used the stimulus funding to pay for a recent statewide middle school media campaign contest, won by Tongue River Middle School in Ranchester, aimed at raising awareness about nursing as a career.

The winning class produced a poster urging their fellow students to "Be a Work of Heart." They also recorded a radio advertisement that is airing on stations across the state.

The stimulus funding also has helped the WCNHCP enhance the Wyoming Nursing Leadership Institute, a partnership project with the Wyoming Nurses Association. The program consists of four sessions aimed at building the necessary skills to lead today's healthcare organizations.

To learn more about the WCNHCP, go to its official website at www.wynursing.org.

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