Don’t leave home without it |

Don’t leave home without it

Local women earn nursing degrees through Regis University program

Melinda Mawdsley

Regis University offered a two-year outreach program in Steamboat Springs for students interested in earning a bachelor's degree in nursing. On Dec. 2, 11 local women who took advantage of the opportunity attended their final class and enjoyed a luncheon to celebrate.

— There is a nursing shortage in the United States. There is a nursing shortage in Colorado. But there was no shortage of smiles around a table at Colorado Mountain College last weekend.

Eleven women graduated with their bachelor’s in nursing this month after taking advantage of a unique outreach program offered by Regis University.

For the past two years, the women have spent their Friday nights and Saturday mornings taking classes in a quiet hall on the CMC campus in Steamboat Springs. The students sometimes traveled to Denver for clinical rotations, but they did their community health lessons with the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurses Association.

On Dec. 2, the women gave their final presentations and held a celebratory luncheon.

“It was something I couldn’t have done 20 years ago, but it was something that interested me now,” Sandy Buchanan said about the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s in nursing while staying in Steamboat.

Lindsay Ackerman even moved to Steamboat from Boulder to take advantage of the outreach program. She will return to the Front Range to work.

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“There was no wait list,” Ackerman said about the program. “I could work full time and have insurance.”

Three of the women already have secured jobs at Yampa Valley Medical Center. Two women will return to the Front Range to work. One of them is Kendra Pankratz, who plans to commute between Steamboat and Swedish Medical Center.

The others are hoping to find employment in the Yampa Valley because they aren’t interested in leaving.

But graduating from nursing school and finding a job isn’t as easy as walking in the door – even with a statewide nursing shortage.

“Facilities are faced with, ‘How do I have a blend of experienced nurses with new nurses?'” said Sara Jarrett, a part-time Steamboat resident and full-time faculty member in Regis’ Department of Nursing. “That’s one of the challenges that facilities do have right now. They have to limit who they hire.”

Jarrett played an important role in creating the outreach program in Steamboat.

“At this point, this was the only one and it was done in response to a community request,” Jarrett said. “The availability of clinical placements is a major issue.”

A nursing program at Colorado Northwestern Com-

munity College in Craig has helped address the need for a regional program, but the wheels already were in motion to create a separate outreach program in Steamboat.

But it’s unclear whether the Regis program will return to Steamboat anytime in the near future. Trying to find clinical space for nursing students is difficult at YVMC and The Memorial Hospital in Craig.

“We had two nursing programs wanting to have some clinical placements in the Yampa Valley,” Jarrett said. “Both had some challenges in getting quality, good learning studies in the clinical setting. We would have had to have some in Denver anyway.”

Nursing students

Lindsay Ackerman

Liz Bristle

Sandy Buchanan

Jamie Carbone

Jessica Kortas

Rory McElhinney

Jolynn Morton

Meg Murphy

Kendra Pankratz

Colleen Ricker

Dawn Tupper

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