A Model for Addressing the Nursing Shortage in Oregon

Dates of Project: May 2008 through December 2012

Field of Work: Transforming nursing education

Problem Synopsis: U.S. demand for nurses will exceed the supply by more than 1 million by the year 2020. Nurses will also need new skills—as well as a baccalaureate degree—to respond to the changing health care needs of an aging and culturally diverse population.

Synopsis of the Work: Launched in 2006, the Oregon Consortium for Nursing Education—a coalition of eight community colleges and five campuses of the Oregon Health and Science University's School of Nursing—was a response to the nursing shortage and changing health care needs. The campuses share a redesigned curriculum that allows community college students to transition directly to the university to pursue a baccalaureate degree.

The consortium led an effort to evaluate its new approach to nursing education.

Key Findings

Some 37 percent of nursing students enrolled in consortium schools chose to pursue a bachelor's degree—much lower than the 70 percent target, but significantly higher than the 9.6 percent national average. Students who graduated from community colleges participating in the consortium but then discontinued their education reported financial concerns—including the cost of tuition, existing debt, and work and family commitments—as primary reasons.

Consortium graduates scored higher on a test of clinical skills than students who graduated before the new approach took effect. A majority of faculty members reported improved student outcomes and greater satisfaction with their job despite a heavier workload, and some said they delayed retirement as a result.