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CEI introduces two nursing programs to meet soaring demand


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IDAHO FALLS — The College of Eastern Idaho is preparing more students to fill a growing demand for nurses in Idaho.

The “Part-Time Registered Nurse Program” and the “LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) to RN (Registered Nurse) Bridge Program” are being rolled out. Both will allow students who work full time during the day to do schooling online in the evening.

“A couple of years back, we were admitting 20 students a semester, graduating roughly 40 students,” Dean of Career Technical Education Clint Reading said. “With these two programs, we’re going to be graduating close to 100 students a year now.”

About a year ago the State Board of Nursing issued a directive to CEI to increase its nursing numbers. They did so by 10, but administrators knew that wouldn’t be enough.

Kathleen Nelson, CEI division manager of health professions, looked into the data the Idaho nursing workforce center has been collecting over the past four years. She wanted to see where things stand in terms of numbers in the nursing field.

“What they’ve done is they’ve taken the current workforce — that does not include any new health care openings,” Nelson said. “They took what our previous statistics are like how many actually leave the profession of nursing, how many are due to retire in the profession of nursing. And in 2025, we will be 7,000 nurses short, just based on current statistics.”

Two practice patients students can work on in the CEI health care building. | Brittni Johnson,

The nursing department knew they needed to answer the call to action. A proposal was presented to Reading to start a part-time nursing program. Nelson thought it would be a few years before it was up and running. To her surprise, the administration said they wanted it started next semester (January 2020).

Part-Time Registered Nurse Program

The “Part-Time Registered Nurse Program” features 15 students who’ve already been accepted. It’s just as rigorous as the full-time course but instead of four semesters, it’s extended over six semesters, utilizing the summer.

The department is trying to limit how often the students in the new programs need to be on campus. They’ll still be required to attend labs, clinicals and their internship in person, but they won’t be at the college Monday-Friday, 8-5.

There will also be prerequisites that have to be finished before starting the part-time program.

“Then you really have the time to focus on these classes,” CEI Assistant Nursing Administrator Jodene Trimble said.

Admittance will be once a year. Students will apply in October and be accepted every spring.

LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) to RN (Registered Nurse) Bridge Program

In the past, licensed practical nurses wanting to become registered nurses had to start at the beginning of the Registered Nurse Program. The nursing department didn’t take into account their past experience because Trimble said they didn’t have “bridge courses to bridge those gaps.”

“We needed to figure out a way to kind of help these practical nurses and take advantage of some of the experience and the license they have to help them become a registered nurse,” Trimble said.

To do that, they created the “LPN to RN Bridge Program.” What once took two years to complete can now be done in about one.

“Some of those courses will be new because we’re going to call them bridge courses,” Nelson said. “They’re courses based on their knowledge and what we need to bridge them to get to that RN-level knowledge.”

Admittance will take place yearly. Applications will be due in March, and students will start in the summer.

Articulation agreement

With the recent program additions, the nursing department also announced an articulation agreement with Boise State University. Students can work on their Bachelor’s of Nursing while still finishing their associates.

“They can actually have their bachelor’s degree a semester after they graduate with their associate’s degree from us,” Trimble said.

How it will work with the part-time program is unclear right now, but Trimble does know the college is in touch with other institutions to get them on board too.

An infant warmer machine in the simulation laboratory. | Brittni Johnson,
A supply closet in the simulation laboratory reflects what one would see in a hospital. | Brittni Johnson,