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First UW-Eau Claire/CVTC Nursing Alliance
Enrollees Earn Associate Degrees

RELEASED: Dec. 21, 2006

EAU CLAIRE — The number of nurses in Wisconsin increased this month thanks to an innovative partnership between the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and two western Wisconsin technical colleges.

The Chippewa Valley Nursing Alliance allows students to enroll in nursing classes at the Chippewa Valley Technical College while also taking general education classes at UW-Eau Claire. The university has a similar agreement with the Western Technical College in La Crosse.

After earning an associate degree, graduates can work as registered nurses and enroll in the UW System's BSN@Home program, formerly known as the Collaborative Nursing Program. Through the BSN program, students can earn a four-year nursing degree from UW-Eau Claire.

This month the first 15 students enrolled in the Chippewa Valley Nursing Alliance received their associate degrees from CVTC and four students graduated from WTC, said UW-Eau Claire Provost Steve Tallant. Three students who earned associate degrees also earned baccalaureate degrees in psychology, biology and business administration from UW-Eau Claire.

All but one of the December graduates have enrolled in the BSN program, Tallant said. Six more students who will graduate in the spring have said they also will enroll in the BSN program, he said.

"This is exactly what we'd hoped would happen when we entered this partnership two years ago," Tallant said. "It's been a tremendous success. We're providing more students with opportunities to enter the nursing profession at a time when Wisconsin needs more nurses."

Nursing administrators and faculty at CVTC and UW-Eau Claire are so encouraged by the alliance's success that they're looking for new ways to work together, said Elaine Wendt, dean of UW-Eau Claire's College of Nursing and Health Sciences.

"I believe this collaboration is just the beginning," Wendt said. "We plan to identify more opportunities to work together to benefit nursing in our region."

CVTC was so satisfied that in fall 2006 it enrolled another 23 students in the alliance, said Ellen Kirking, the focus learning center manager for health at CVTC.

"It gives qualified students a chance to enter nursing," Kirking said. "UW-Eau Claire can't increase the number of baccalaureate-prepared nurses on its own. By working together, we're making a difference for these students. It's a nice win-win for the students and the region."

Students enrolled in the alliance were UW-Eau Claire students who met nursing program requirements but weren't admitted to the program because the university doesn't have the resources to accommodate all the qualified students who apply, Tallant said. About 180 qualified students are turned away from the university's nursing program each year, he said.

In the past, students had to transfer to another school with a nursing program or change their major, Tallant said. The alliance provides an attractive alternative, he said, noting that students can live in residence halls, have a university adviser and access all university services.

"The alliance helped me start in a nursing program when there wasn't room for me at the university so I'll always be grateful for it," said Megan Pepper, an Eau Claire native who graduated from CVTC this month and will work as an RN at a Portage hospital. "I finished in two years so I'll work in nursing that much faster. And I can continue to work toward my bachelor's degree. I'm registered to begin the BSN@Home next semester. The alliance is helping me achieve my goal of becoming a nurse."

BSN@Home is designed for nurses with an associate degree or diploma who want to earn a bachelor's degree. The online courses are available only to students registered in nursing programs at UW-Eau Claire or UW campuses in Madison, Oshkosh, Milwaukee and Green Bay.

"The alliance is wonderful," said Kelli Kollmansberger, a December CVTC graduate who has accepted an RN position at St. Joseph's Hospital in Marshfield. "I'll be working as a nurse so I can pay for the BSN classes as I take them. I'm excited to have a job. I feel like I've accomplished a lot in a short amount of time."

CVTC and UW-Eau Claire crafted the alliance to help meet the rising demand for nurses. Hospitals in the region have greatly expanded staffing since 2000, and that growth is expected to continue — some say dramatically — as baby boomers retire and require more care.

"This is an incredible partnership," Tallant said. "We're efficiently using resources to graduate more nurses, which helps our community and state meet our health care needs. And it gives highly qualified students who want to be nurses a chance to pursue their dreams."



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