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New W.Va. Nursing Program Targets Non-Traditional Students

June Leffler
West Virginia Public Broadcasting
(Left) Chad Callen and David Ramsey announce a new nursing program at CAMC's Cancer Center.

West Virginia Junior College (WVJC) announced a new nursing program meant to bring in non-traditional students. The program is in partnership with the largest hospital in the state, Charleston Area Medical Center (CAMC).

The statewide college already offers associate degrees in nursing, but this 18-month program is entirely online, aside from lab and clinical hours, which will be completed at CAMC.

WVJC CEO Chad Callen said that model can better serve students that aren’t straight out of high school. These are students that might already be working and supporting a family.

“They're able to manage and balance life and learning simultaneously,” Callen said.

The model is based on WVJC’s online, rural nursing program. Enrollment in the associate degree program will open this fall, with classes starting in April of 2023.

The college and hospital said this is one more way to offset the healthcare worker shortage in the state, especially frontline nurses.

“Non-traditional students are, more so than traditional students, to stay at the bedside,” Callen said. “And that's where the nursing shortage is occurring at the bedside. Traditional students tend to advance in the profession, and that would take them off the bedside.”

CAMC employs 1,900 registered nurses, and Vice President for Professional Practice and Chief Nursing Officer Heidi Edwards said there is a vacancy of about 200 bedside nurses.

“I say 200, just to say that if there were 300 out there today, we would take all 300 of them, because we can use them and our nurses need a break,” Edwards said.

Edwards said the nursing shortage didn’t start with the pandemic, and it won’t end with it either. She expects this issue to continue into the next decade.

COVID-19 hospitalizations are currently low, compared to the surges seen during the fall and winter. Edwards said nurses are able to take time off, but they’re also having to play catch up with elective procedures that have been delayed.

“It's certainly challenging. It feels a little bit better right now, but our eyes are always open to the fact that we don't know what's coming. And we have to be able to function and be able to care for our community no matter what,” Edwards said.

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