For those wanting to get back into nursing: Group taking aim at nursing shortage | News | - The Times-Tribune

Five area hospitals, the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce and Luzerne County Community College are about to start alleviating the area’s nursing shortage — 10 nurses at a time.

That’s the number of slots in the inaugural class, chamber officials announced Thursday, which the organizations will team to offer for nonpracticing registered nurses who want to work again.

The 100-hour class will begin in February, and Luzerne County Community College will provide the teacher. Community Medical Center will host and help subsidize much of the tuition costs with Allied Services, Mercy Hospital, Marian Community Hospital and Moses Taylor Hospital.

“None of these hospitals have ever moved to China,” said Austin Burke, the chamber’s president. “Nursing and health care provide great, family-sustaining career opportunities and the chance to help people in need.”

The new class is part of multi-pronged strategy — by the chamber’s Skills in Scranton initiative, schools, health care providers and the Lackawanna County Workforce Investment Board — to recruit and educate more nurses.

“There’s a pool of trained professionals who want to get back to the bedside,” said Phyllis Lynady, R.N., CMC’s recruitment director. “But with technology changing, these professionals are fearful of coming back into the work force.”

The Pennsylvania State Nurses Association estimates the commonwealth will be short 1,700 registered nurses by 2010, and pegs the average Pennsylvania registered nurse at nearly 49 years old.

To target younger prospective nurses, Skills in Scranton already sends representatives to discuss health care careers with middle and high school students in 20 local school districts.

In the meantime, the local recertification class “is a good start,” said Alice Gray, director of the State Department of Health’s Bureau of Community Health Systems. “This program fits exactly within the strategy of what the department and Gov. Rendell want to do to decrease the shortage.”

In Lackawanna County, a 2006-07 state survey estimates 38 percent of registered nurses are older than 50, and CMC, whose average R.N. is age 53, is typical of area hospitals awaiting a wave of retirements.

Though the state’s nurse-to-teacher ratios will lead to a recertification class of just 10 students, the local groups hope to run the class every four months, said Christine Donnolo, LCCC’s associate dean of continuing education. The hospitals also will hold a job fair at the chamber at the end of the first course to hire its graduates.

The course would normally cost $1,100, but licensed registered nurses can take it for $225. Nurses can learn more by contacting the college at 800-377-5222, ext. 495, or visit Continuing Education.