New ASU Havasu program aims to help address nurse shortage

Nurses and doctors work on the COVID floor at Valleywise Hospital.

Even before the pandemic, a scarcity of nurses was an ongoing concern in Arizona, especially in more rural areas.

An Arizona State University nursing program, set to debut at the school’s Lake Havasu City campus this fall, aims to put a dent in that shortage.

ASU Havasu, which is still a young campus at 9 years old, got approval in April from the Arizona Board of Nursing to offer a 12-month bachelor of science degree in nursing. The program is expected to draw more than 30 new students, the Today’s News-Herald reported.

Anita Harger, the chief human resources officer at Kingman Regional Medical Center, said she has never seen such a dearth of nurses in her 30-year career. It’s a worry for most hospital administrators across the region, she added.

One reason it can be difficult to lure prospective nurses to Mohave County is a lack of job opportunities for spouses and partners.

"Other than the hospital and the school district, the largest employer in town is Walmart," Harger said.

Hospitals in rural areas also find it hard to compete with regional hospitals or private medical practices.

"People think that hospitals make a ton of money, but it couldn’t be further from the truth," she said.

Amanda Goodman, a spokeswoman for Arizona State University’s Edson College, is hopeful the class of future nurses will consider planting roots. Nurses who get their education in rural areas are likelier to stay in there after graduation.

June Weiss, the director of nursing programs at Mohave Community College, said many graduates have gone on to become registered nurses in Mohave County communities. Classes can’t fit more than 20 students each semester in order to ensure they all get the proper clinical experience. That amounts to 160 new students total per year across its campuses.

Under the ASU program, nursing students will be able to partake in virtual and immersion lab experiences. Some will include visits to Health Futures Center in Phoenix. The program is expected to complement programs at Mohave Community College.

Harger, of Kingman Regional Medical Center, said with only 30 nursing students to start, it will take some time to see the payoff of this new nursing program.

"It is going to get a lot harder before it gets easier," Harger said.

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