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MSU partners with Mercy to launch new nursing program, ‘Earn as you learn’

Published: Aug. 2, 2021 at 9:33 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Missouri State University and Mercy are partnering for a new nursing program starting this fall.

The duo are piloting a program called “Earn as You Learn,” which will allow students the chance to earn money while completing clinical time.

Thirty-seven MSU students will participate in the program this fall. The MSU School of Nursing wanted to find a way to help the hospital, while also giving students the best experience.

”Surely there’s something we can do at the university to smooth that transition, but also address some of your needs at the hospital with the shortages that you guys [Mercy] are continuing to experience while giving our nursing students the experiences that they need,” Program Director Kathryn Patterson said. “That’s real world and real life.”

Patterson said the program will help students feel more prepared come graduation time.

“There’s a little bit of a disconnect between the academic world and the actual real world when nurses get out,” she said.

Students taking part in the pilot program are already pretty excited to get started.

”This gives us the ability to really have hands on learning, and more time in the field to review, reflect and integrate,” said nursing student Landen Kozlowski. “It really gives us a way to easily transition into the field of nursing, which is awesome.”

Kozlowski said she has a real passion for nursing.

”Back in 2018, I started this job, and I was working with guys who are developmentally disabled,” she said. “And I fell in love with the job. I loved helping them. I love getting to know them personally, working alongside them, and ultimately, that made me want to pursue nursing.”

Hospitals say there’s a critical need for nurses these days. That need is sometimes even larger in rural areas. Mercy says it can easily schedule students and staff at multiple spots, including some of the health system’s rural locations.

”Losing one nurse in Lebanon is like losing 10 nurses in Springfield, right? And so if we can help them, say they lose a nurse and just need somebody even part time until they get somebody hired, we’re able to send somebody and help them,” Mercy Chief Nursing Officer Betty Jo Rocchio said.

Rocchio said the program will also help the hospital system.

“We’re trying to build a sustainable workforce that feels ingrained into our culture,” she said. “And that starts with being a student. And so if we can partner early, to help them learn our culture, learn how to take care of patients in the right way, it benefits us, and it also benefits them.”

Students will get paid for the work they do while completing clinical time, which program directors said is fairly uncommon.

“This also helps our students who are struggling with student loans get through school,” Rocchio said. “So they’re more comfortable, they’re earning a little bit of money while they’re doing their clinicals. And let’s be honest, they do a good bit of work for us.”

The university hopes the program will lift some stress off of current hospital staff’s shoulders.

”More hands on deck for them to pick up additional work, whether that’s helping in the emergency department, taking vital signs, working as a certified nurse’s assistant, you know, whatever Mercy really needs for additional hands,” Patterson said.

Students can also pick up additional shifts. And some, like Kozlowski, have already accepted positions after graduation.

“I think it definitely gets us nursing students more excited, for sure about the field of nursing,” she said. “It’s important to note that strong nursing care is really critical right now. And I’m just really proud to be able to contribute back to the community this way.”

The pilot program begins fall 2021. By spring 2022, nursing students at the senior clinical level will have the opportunity to participate in “Earn as You Learn.” Mercy plans to open the program to more nursing schools if it is successful.

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