The University of Arkansas at Fort Smith will introduce an option to get more nurses out into the workforce next fall.

During the UAFS Board of Visitors meeting Wednesday, Carolyn Mosley, dean of the UAFS college of health sciences, talked about an accelerated bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program, which will start at the university in the fall of 2018. Mosley said this is a viable option to which many schools have turned.

"The accelerated program is not new," Mosley said. "We have more than 270 programs right now in 49 states. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing ... has said that there are 13 more programs on the horizon, more people looking at this option, and many schools of nursing, the accelerated program is larger than their traditional program. ..."

Mosley said the United States has been dealing with a nursing shortage of varying degrees for decades. However, with the aging population, the increased instances of chronic illnesses, the aging nursing workforce and the limited capacity of nursing schools, this shortage is projected to increase exponentially. This will have adverse effects on communities nationwide, including Arkansas. 

"What this is telling us is that, of every American, there are more persons who are 65 and older than any other time in the history of the United States," Mosley said. "It's also projected that by 2050, that one in every five Americans is going to be a senior citizen. Right now, the average age of the nurse is 56, and schools of nursing are struggling to meet the demands for more nurses, but they can't do so because of lack of faculty and because of budget constraints."

Mosley said Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 1.2 million vacancies in the registered nurse workforce between now and 2022. This will be the largest shortage since the introduction of Medicare and Medicaid. The American Association of College of Nursing also reported in their 2016-17 Enrollment and Graduations in Baccalaureate and Graduate Programs that more than 64,000 qualified applicants were turned away from nursing programs.

"So what I'm telling you is that we have the same problems here in Fort Smith," Mosley said. "The national issue of a nursing shortage exists here in Fort Smith. We also have a shortage of nurses here in Fort Smith for the same reasons. ..."

In regards to the accelerated BSN program UAFS will offer, Mosley said it will mirror the university's existing traditional program in credit hours and courses. The difference is the condensed time these students will have to take these courses, which will be 15 months starting in the fall or spring.

When going over admission requirements for the accelerated program, Mosley said students must have a bachelor degree in a non-nursing discipline. The other criteria will mirror the same criteria UAFS has for its traditional program. These include meeting university admission requirements, having a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5 for all college course work and completing required prerequisite courses for the program with a minimum grade of C or higher in each course.

"Currently, right now, we accept 120 students in our traditional program per year," Mosley said. "This accelerated program will give us an opportunity to accept an additional 64 per year, or 32 per semester. ..."

The application deadline to enter the accelerated program during the fall 2018 semester is March 1. The application deadline to enter during the following spring semester is Oct. 1.

Mosley said this program also has clinical partners in the form of Sparks Regional Medical Center and Mercy Hospital. Over the course of the program, each hospital will provide the nurses to cover every clinical experience for the students.

"I tell you that this program would not be possible without this partnership, ..." Mosley said.