Source: Katherine Knott, The News-Enterprise
Greg Peel, a licensed practical nurse at Hardin Memorial Hospital, had resigned himself to the fact he never would be a registered nurse.
“It was the dream when I started this,” he said. “The plan was to get my LPN and going right into the RN program, but life and finances got in the way.”
At 56 years old, he had student loans to pay, so he couldn’t work part-time and take classes. Becoming a registered nurse requires investing two or four years into an associate or bachelor’s degree program.
But now, Peel said he is going back to school to fulfill his dream thanks to a partnership announced Tuesday between HMH and Western Kentucky University.
HMH will pay for Peel to earn his associate of science in nursing through a mostly online program offered by WKU. The hospital also is providing a clinical instructor, so Peel can complete the clinical requirements of the program at work.
“It’s literally a gift-wrapped present from God, HMH and WKU to see my dream through,” he said.
Peel will start the program next month. One of his first classes is microbiology.
Peel told his story at the announcement, which was attended by hospital and WKU staff.
“I will be a good nurse for you, I promise,” he told the group.
WKU President Gary Ransdell was on hand Tuesday to sign a memorandum of agreement between the two institutions. He said he sees a great future for the program.
“That’s what we do as a university,” he said of the partnership.
Ransdell, who is retiring at the end of June, said few things are more important for WKU than working with its partners to improve health care in the region.
“We can provide the courses, but for this to work, it requires a three-ring partnership between the nurse, the hospital and the School of Nursing,” he said.
Sharon Wright, vice president and chief nursing officer for the hospital, said there’s a movement in nursing toward a four-year bachelor’s program. But that can be a big step for a licensed practical nurse. This new program helps to fill that gap, she said.
The hospital provides an on-site program through McKendree University for nurses with an associate degree to earn a Bachelor of Science in nursing.
Wright said the partnership with WKU has been a long journey. They were looking for a partner who would allow their nurses to work and go to school at the same time.
“Western said they would build a program around our needs,” she said.
There aren’t many programs left in the state for those who want to earn an Associate of Science in nursing, said Dr. Mary Bennett, director of WKU’s School of Nursing.
In fact, she recently was considering ending the program because there’s more interest in the four-year option. But five faculty members stepped up and said they would teach classes for the associate track.
“It’s a huge step to go to from the LPN to (Bachelor of Science in nursing),” she said. “I hated to close the program.”
Bennett said partnerships such as the one announced Tuesday will help keep the program viable by providing tuition and students.
“It’s meeting a workforce need,” she said.
HMH will cover tuition for eight to 10 students per semester. The program lasts about 18 months.
“We’re doing what we can to ensure the nursing shortage doesn’t have as big an impact here,” said Myra Covault, vice president and chief human resources officer for the hospital.
Katherine Knott can be reached at 270-505-1747 or firstname.lastname@example.org.