February 6, 2018

LOGAN COUNTY COMMISSIONER TESTIFIES FOR NURSING BILL AT STATE CAPITOL

Testimony by Logan County Commissioner Byron Pelton last week helped to move forward a state bill that addresses Colorado’s shortage of skilled nursing professionals.

HB 18-1086 – “Community College Bachelor Science Degree Nursing” – passed on a 12-1 vote out of the Colorado House of Representatives Health, Insurance and Environment committee following testimony by Pelton and several other officials on February 1 at the State Capitol.

According to the Colorado Community College System, the legislation seeks to address an imminent healthcare crisis in Colorado: an acute shortage of nursing professionals with four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees.

Under current law, community colleges that are part of the state community college system may offer two-year associate’s degrees and bachelor of applied science degrees, with limited exceptions. This bill allows a community college – including Northeastern Junior College in Sterling – to offer Bachelor of Science degrees in nursing.

Pelton’s testimony at the State House follows:

“I am honored to be here to speak on behalf of rural Colorado and CCI in support of HB 18-1086 ‘Community College Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing.’

“According to the Department of Labor, Colorado loses 490 nurses with BSN’s every year and is on pace to have 4,500 vacant BSN nursing positions by 2024. This enormous nursing shortage will hit the rural areas the hardest because it’s more difficult to attract and maintain nurses to small rural areas. If our small town hospitals can’t fill our nursing shortages, they will be forced to contract traveling nurses at a much higher expense that will drive the healthcare costs to unaffordable levels. Small town hospitals with community colleges in their service area would benefit the most from this bill.

“Currently, 76% of 2 year nursing program graduates either don’t transfer anywhere or transfer out of state. Of that number, 20% of those students transfer out of state – in my area we lose many students to WNCC (Western Nebraska Community College) – taking their tuition dollars with them. Right now, 56% of 2 year nursing program graduates don’t go on to complete a BSN. I believe very strongly that this bill would go a long way to change that.

“Colorado Community Colleges offer the most accessible and affordable option for students in Colorado. Convenient classes close to home, flexible class times, and online courses make it more realistic for 2 year graduates to be able to continue and gain their BSN. Maybe the best part is that community colleges offer concurrent programs – where RN graduates can work as registered nurses while they finish the final 2 years of their BSN degree. The bottom line is, Colorado Community Colleges make it easier for small town nurses to complete their BSN.

“Many of the nursing work force in rural areas are ‘home grown’ – they grew up in small towns and obtain their two year nursing degree at the closest community college. Rural areas in Colorado already have a higher than average number of RN’s without BSN’s that live and work in their communities. When community college graduates transfer to four year schools on the Front Range, it is extremely difficult to get them to return to rural areas because we can’t offer the amenities or the salaries of the Front Range and metropolitan hospitals. This bill isn’t going to hurt the four year schools in Colorado. Many of them have lengthy waiting lists which I think is part of what drives some students out of state.

“There are already 8 other states that are allowing 30 different community colleges to offer the BSN. Those programs have been incredibly successful at filling major gaps in the workforce needs. We need to do something immediately to start addressing this imminent crisis and HB 18-1086 would be a huge step in the right direction and will go a long way in protecting healthcare for rural Colorado.”