Missouri Foundation for Health Awards $664,379 to Southeast for LPN to RN Bridge Program

Photo of the Kennett Area Higher Education Center

The LPN to RN Bridge Program will be offered in Kennett, Mo., at Southeast Missouri State University’s Kennett Area Higher Education Center (KAHEC) beginning next month.

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo.,

Oct. 3, 2006 – Southeast Missouri State University, in partnership with the Southeast Missouri Hospital College of Nursing and Health Sciences, has received the largest Missouri Foundation for Health (MFH) award granted to a Cape Girardeau County recipient since the Foundation began distributing funds. 

The $664,379 award will underwrite start-up costs for the associate degree Licensed Practical Nurse to Registered Nurse (LPN to RN) Bridge Program, which is being presented as a cooperative effort of Southeast Missouri State University and the Southeast Missouri Hospital College of Nursing and Health Sciences.  The LPN to RN Bridge Program will be offered in Kennett, Mo., at Southeast Missouri State University’s Kennett Area Higher Education Center (KAHEC) beginning next month.

Under the partnership, Southeast Missouri State University will provide the general education and science classes, and the College will provide the nursing courses and award the associate of applied science in nursing degree upon completion of the program.

“This grant will enable us to have a premier, state-of-the-art nursing program right here in Kennett,” said Marsha Blanchard, project director of the grant and director of the Kennett Area Higher Education Center. “Because of this award, health care in the entire region is going to benefit. We are going to be able to purchase nursing equipment and keep it right here at our center,” she said. “This award is really going to boost the strength of our program.”

The MFH grant funding will underwrite faculty salaries and provide cutting-edge medical simulators and training equipment, as well as Interactive Television and Video (ITV) equipment and networking costs for the first three years of the LPN to RN Bridge program.  The two-year LPN to RN Bridge program has been approved by the Missouri Nursing Board to educate up to 12 students per cohort, and is expected to produce 22 registered nurses by 2009.

 “It’s a pleasure to work with Southeast Missouri State University to offer an associate degree registered nursing program in Kennett,” said Dr. Tonya Buttry, president of the Southeast Missouri Hospital College of Nursing & Health Science. “The shortage of registered nurses is apparent in Kennett. We knew that there were licensed practical nurses in that community who desire to enter a registered nursing program but needed an avenue to do so. The Missouri Foundation for Health grant enabled us to provide that avenue for them.”

Dr. Sheila Caskey, president of the College of Nursing & Health Sciences Board of Trustees, said the College of Nursing & Health Sciences is very pleased to learn the grant application was successful.

“Our faculty and President Buttry have done a magnificent job of growing the college, and the grant is further evidence of their efforts. The support that the Kennett program receives from the grant allows us to further pursue our mission of assisting the region through the education of nurses by extending our reach beyond Cape Girardeau.”

Donna Shirrell, director of the nursing program, said, “This grant is going to make it possible for us to provide this much needed service to a community that has worked so hard and waited so long for this program.”

Melissa Samuelson, chief nursing officer at Twin Rivers Regional Medical Center in Kennett, said, “The Missouri Foundation for Health grant will significantly boost the LPN to RN Bridge Program in our community. We will see a significant impact on nursing as more LPNs enroll and complete the program becoming registered nurses. When the graduates enter the workforce, it will only increase the level of nursing expertise available to healthcare in the Kennett area.”

Although the rural nursing shortage is well-documented, tested solutions remain evasive.  The University and Southeast Missouri Hospital College of Nursing and Health Sciences will conduct an extensive evaluation of the LPN to RN Bridge program in order to develop an empirically-based model of rural nursing recruitment and retention.  There is limited research that tests the effectiveness of cross-sector programs that seek to improve recruitment and retention of nurses in a rural area.  The University and Hospital College hope to use the LPN to RN Bridge in Kennett to develop a model that can be replicated in other rural areas across the nation.

The MFH funding will allow the project partners to develop a model of nursing recruitment and retention that incorporates several components.  First, the program will recruit local LPNs who already feel a connection to the community through family, church, social networks and/or spousal employment.  Second, the program’s financial incentives and support will encourage long-term commitment to the region.  These include partnerships with hospitals and other employers to engage in tuition reimbursement contracts with current LPNs and technical assistance to identify and complete scholarship applications and student loan paperwork if needed.  Third, those LPNs not currently employed in a clinical site will be allowed the opportunity to complete their clinical rotation in a rural area.  This has been shown in several studies to improve the likelihood that the student will choose to practice in the rural clinical site or one like it.  Fourth, the University’s Career Linkages program will provide career counseling, placement and assessments to ensure that the LPN to RN Bridge graduates are placed in their ideal locations. 

The MFH funding will be leveraged with significant cash and in-kind contributions from Southeast Missouri State University and the Southeast Hospital College of Nursing and Health Sciences. In addition, Twin Rivers Regional Medical Center in Kennett has committed $125,000 over the initial three-year period, including the donation of hospital beds and other supplies to outfit a nursing skills lab.

The funding from the Missouri Foundation for Health will allow the University and Southeast Missouri Hospital College of Nursing and Health Sciences to expand knowledge about rural nurse retention while meeting an immediate local need for nursing education.