Health care for patients in rural communities across the United States and around the world remains a unique challenge. Rural residents often face long travel distances, wait months for an appointment, or are unable to access healthcare. While nursing makes up the largest group of health care professions, most are employed in big hospital systems, leaving rural communities without an adequate supply of nurses to meet workforce needs.
Montana has found innovative ways to provide knowledgeable and skilled employees in rural communities to assist in alleviating the mounting nursing healthcare workforce shortage. Through the HealthCARE Montana project, expanded access to nursing and allied health education is being offered through distance technology, work-based learning experiences, and homegrown innovations. This includes development of specialized training for transforming practicing rural nurses to be educators, success skills for staff, mobile simulation for professional development, and Registered Healthcare Apprenticeship Programs for the first time. Increasing credential completion and employment will help overcome workforce challenges in frontier and remote communities.
Eleven nursing education colleges and rural employers from across the state of Montana created a common curriculum for a Practical Nursing (PN) Certificate of Applied Science program, Associate Degree Nursing (ASN) program with a seamless progression to a Registered Nurse - Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN) program. The PN and RN-BSN Completion programs are offered in a distance learning modality, providing access to rural students committed to their community. Rural communities can “grow their own” increasing their nursing workforce and the quality of care.