These programs are for rural students: College of St. Scholastica adds nursing, social work programs for rural students -

DULUTH The College of St. Scholastica is aiming to make it easier for rural students to earn degrees.

New programs have been added in Aitkin and on the Bois Forte Reservation near Lake Vermilion.

Registered nurses with associate's degrees and diplomas can earn bachelor of science degrees at the Riverwood Healthcare Center in Aitkin beginning in November a program believed to be the first in the state offered at a rural hospital.

"In rural areas, it is increasingly difficult to educate and retain our staff," said Janet Larson, a nurse practitioner at Riverwood and an instructor for St. Scholastica. "Any time we can keep them within the rural area, it's a benefit."

A higher education level for nurses is needed in the Aitkin area because of its varied populations, she said, and according to studies, bachelor's degrees offer more job satisfaction.

Rural hospitals are just as capable of such programs as metro-area hospitals, Larson said.
The Brainerd campus of St. Scholastica will run the degree program, which has 10 enrolled students. Another bachelor's degree program for registered nurses will be offered at the Cambridge Medical Center in Cambridge beginning this summer. The college will receive a national award for "innovation in professional nursing" from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing this weekend.

At Bois Forte, a distance learning social work program begins this month. Students can earn a bachelor's degree in social work through classes on the reservation.

"There is a desperate shortage of Native American social workers, not only in Minnesota but throughout the United States," said Lee Gustafson, chairman of St. Scholastica's department of social work. "And Bois Forte has been an underserved area in this region."
About 12 students have signed up for the social work classes for this semester. The Bois Forte Band of Chippewa has provided space and scholarships for students. The college also began offering a social work degree in Brainerd this fall.