OPELOUSAS – A shortage of registered nurses is looming as baby boomers enter retirement. The U.S. Bureau of Labor projects the need for nearly 650,000 replacement nurses in the workforce bringing the total number of job openings for nurses to 1.09 million in 2024. South Louisiana Community College is creating a program at its T.H. Harris Campus in Opelousas to address this shortage locally.
Today, college officials and parish leaders announced an LPN-to-RN program at the campus that would start with renovations in Spring 2018. Expected hiring of faculty and program start is Spring 2019.
“Our Opelousas campus has a long history of graduating practical nursing students that have been gainfully employed in St. Landry Parish and beyond,” said Dr. Rebecca Harris-Smith, SLCC Dean of Nursing and Allied Health. “We feel these graduates have the knowledge base and experience to successfully complete this proposal program in a shorter time frame than a traditional RN program.”
The development of this program would benefit the community in a number of ways including: allowing LPNs an opportunity to become an RN more quickly, providing students the ability to continue working while completing the program, and building upon the skills graduates already possess as nurses.
“Training a skilled workforce for healthcare across our region is a priority and part of our mission at SLCC,” said Dr. Natalie Harder, Chancellor. “This program is a win-win for our students and alumni and our region as more RNs enter the healthcare workforce.”
The college has several partners for this program including: Opelousas General Health System, St. Landry Economic Development, City of Opelousas, and the William C. Schumacher Foundation.
"We are very excited to partner with SLCC in providing education and training to healthcare students. It is a very exciting opportunity for St. Landry Parish and we were delighted to be able to financially assist in this endeavor," said Dr. Kenneth J. Cochran, President and CEO of Opelousas General Health System. "We have greatly benefited in the past from the highly skilled graduates of the SLCC LPN program and look forward to the future graduates of this RN program. As a healthcare employer in the parish, we strongly support this educational venture and look forward to expanding upon this partnership.
State Representative Dustin Miller has also been actively encouraging the college to move as quickly as possible to bring an LPN to RN program to St. Landry Parish.
“Providing college opportunities like RN programs here in Opelousas for our citizens is a blessing for our community. I would like to thank T.H. Harris Campus staff for increasing St. Landry Parish educational opportunities and encourage our citizens to step to the plate and let's hit a homerun with healthcare,” said State Rep. Dustin Miller.
Most recently, the college received full approval for its traditional RN program from the Louisiana State Board of Nursing this Fall and has initial accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. The college’s LPN to RN program must adhere to guidelines and timelines set for by the ACEN.
The first cohort of RNs from the Lafayette Campus began in Fall 2014 and graduated in Spring 2016. The first graduating class completed its NCLEX licensing exam with a 91.3% passage rate. The national average is 84.6%, according to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.
“We are incredibly proud of the quality of our Registered Nursing program,” said Harris-Smith. “Students are getting job offers before graduation or immediately after. With a local average annual wage $57,693 for registered nurses, the growth will stimulate workforce and economic development in Acadiana.”
The newest class of RNs in Lafayette started in August.
The college’s Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) program is a 2-year (4-semester) program. Candidates to the program must have completed 16 hours of pre-requisite courses prior to admission into the RN program. A total of 40 students are accepted into new RN classes.
The original RN program at SLCC spurred from local industry demand in healthcare and a desire for an increased pipeline of qualified RNs. Growth in registered nurses in Acadiana is expected to grow 18% by 2024, according to the Louisiana Workforce Commission.
In 2013, Acadiana’s three major hospital systems (Lafayette General Health, Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center, and Women’s and Children’s Hospital) and Lafayette Economic Development Authority collectively invested $500,000 to establish a Registered Nursing program at SLCC.
Cutline: from left – Bently Senegal, SLCC Foundation President; Ryan Domengeaux, William C. Schumacher Family Foundation CEO; Senator Gerald Boudreaux; Dr. Rebecca Harris-Smith, SLCC Dean of Nursing and Allied Health; State Rep. Dustin Miller; Bill Rodier, St. Landry Parish Economic Development Director; Chip Jackson, LCTCS Board of Supervisors member; Pat Morrow, Morrow, Morrow, Ryan, Bassett, and Haik Senior Partner; Ryhn Duplechain, St. Landry Parish Tax Assessor; and Kendra Seria, SLCC Student.
Kendra Seria and other SLCC students presented special guests with tokens of appreciation for supporting SLCC and it's LPN to RN program in Opelousas.