Let's see how this goes: Beloit Daily News > News > Health

The University of Wisconsin - Rock County is exploring another four-year degree program - this time in nursing.

The UW - Rock County has been meeting with area hospitals, Blackhawk Technical College officials and officials from the UW - Oshkosh to start a bachelor of science degree program at the Janesville campus.

“We've had several meetings. Overall, we're in agreement we want to do this,” said UW - Rock County Dean Diane Pillard.

The plan would require the cooperation of several entities. Some coursework would take place at the UW - Rock County campus in Janesville. Lab work is planned to take place at Blackhawk Technical College between Beloit and Janesville. And, clinical work would take place at Beloit Memorial Hospital, Mercy Hospital and Dean-St. Mary's Hospital.

Also, there would be coursework offered through an online link with the nursing program at the UW - Oshkosh.

Doris Mulder, Beloit Memorial Hospital vice president overseeing nursing, said the program would be a welcome addition in Rock County. She noted many health organizations are experiencing nursing shortages.

“As experienced nurses continue to retire, we will need new nurses to replace them,” Mulder said.

Pillard said current projections indicate 300 nurses who currently work for Beloit Memorial Hospital and Mercy Health System will retire in the next 10 years.

Nursing could be a good career choice for young people, Mulder said. There are many jobs available and the pay is good. A nurse fresh out of school averages about $22 an hour, in this area, Mulder said. When he or she gets a few years of experience, that can increase to $28 an hour.

Many nurses at Beloit Memorial Hospital have associate degrees, but they may be interested in going to get a bachelor's degree, especially if it is offered close to home in Rock County. Also, Mulder noted Beloit Memorial Hospital reimburses 100 percent for tuition to its nurses who wish to further their education.

Blackhawk Technical College has an associate degree nursing program which has a lengthy waiting list. Because the demand was high for those wanting to enter the nursing program, BTC expanded its program a few years ago to allow more nursing students. A referendum was held to help with the needed expansion at the college.

The nurses with associates degrees are highly valued at the hospital. But, in order to be placed in a nurse management area at Beloit Memorial Hospital, a bachelor's degree is required, Mulder said.

“This will provide more opportunities for anyone who wants to become a nurse,” Mulder said of the proposed program at UW - Rock County. “Nursing is a great career to get into.”

She admitted she is a bit biased, because she has been involved in nursing for 33 years. Beloit Memorial Hospital employs about 300 nurses.

Mulder also is president of the Greater Beloit Chamber of Commerce Board, and she sees great business support for this program, just as there was for the four-year degree program for engineering at UW - Rock County. In that program, the Greater Beloit Chamber of Commerce and Forward Janesville conducted fundraising campaigns to help start the engineering program.

Pillard said she does not know if their will be a fundraising campaign for the nursing program. She said there will not have to be any new building necessary for the program, as there was for the engineering program.

She said she hopes to start small with 20 students in the program, and she hopes to have the first group of students in the program next fall.

“That is a very ambitious timeline, but we think we can do it,” Pillard said.