Partnership links College of Eastern Idaho’s nursing programs, local hospitals through institute

Nurse training program founded in Idaho Falls with the help of Mountain View, Idaho Falls Community hospitals

By: - July 28, 2023 4:49 pm
People pose for a photo at a ribbon-cutting event for the Idaho Healthcare Institute..

Local leaders pose at a ribbon-cutting event for the Idaho Healthcare Institute on Thursday, July 27. (Idaho Falls Community Hospital)

Nurses in training at the College of Eastern Idaho have access to more training resources through a new partnership with local hospitals.

Local leaders announced a new building for the Idaho Healthcare Institute on Thursday, a nonprofit organization that brings the nursing program new instructors and more clinical experience for students in Mountain View Hospital and Idaho Falls Community Hospital.

The new program will provide a much-needed boost to the number of nursing graduates in eastern Idaho. Idaho Gov. Brad Little, who attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new 14-bed facility at Mountain View Hospital, said the partnership is a model that other states would look to.

“As we wrestle with the shortage of health professionals, this is the ideal example,” Little said. “I’m sure there are going to be other states that are going to try to steal this. That’s fine. Because we’ve got a health care professional shortage across the entire United States.”

The institute, which opened in October 2022, connects students interested in nursing with educational resources and career opportunities. But students’ nursing degrees will still come from CEI, said Natalie Podgorski, spokesperson for the hospitals partnering with the institute.

CEI President Rick Aman, in a phone interview after the ribbon cutting, said this may be one of the first times that hospitals are training nurses for the region. 

He said it’ll significantly boost the number of nursing students CEI can teach. By training students on certified nursing assistant, or CNA, skills, it helps students progress through CEI’s programs faster, Aman said.

“We have the accreditation,” he said. “We don’t have the capacity.”

Idaho has a long history of health care worker shortage

Idaho has a shortage of nurses, physicians and medical specialists. A 2022 report from the Idaho Center for Nursing found that Idaho was short about 1,119 registered nurses to meet its population’s needs. About 48% of registered nurses in Idaho lived in Ada and Canyon counties, the report found. Last June, health care facilities reported an average vacancy number of 2,000, the report said.

“The number of new graduate nurses has remained consistent for the past 18 years,” the center’s director, Randall Hudspeth, told the Idaho Capital Sun in a text message. He said that does not meet the needs for replacing nurses as demand rises from population growth.

The program is meant to help students receive their CNA license at CEI, give them hands-on experience in clinical rotations in hospitals, providing scholarships and helping connect students with jobs.

The institute is training 41 CNA students but hopes to expand to 60 in each of the four classes it offers a year, Podgorski said.

“Mountain View Hospital and Idaho Falls Community Hospital have felt the impacts of Idah’s nursing shortage,” she said. “This was one of their driving forces for becoming involved with the Idaho Healthcare Institute.”

The institute provides 40 full scholarships to the $1,500 CNA program per year, awarding another 20 scholarships for licensed professional nurses each year and 10 scholarships to registered nursing students each year.

The CNA certificate takes 10 weeks to complete. Afterward, students can pursue degrees as a licensed professional nurse or registered nurse at CEI.

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