UA's Arizona AHEC Program Helps Fund Community College Nursing Projects

UA's Arizona AHEC Program Helps Fund Community College Nursing Projects

UA's Arizona AHEC Program Helps Fund Community College Nursing Projects

Thanks in part to funding from the Arizona Area Health Education Centers Program (Arizona AHEC), six Arizona community colleges are embarking on individual approaches to address a chief contributor to the state's shortage of nurses - a lack of capacity in Arizona's nursing education programs.
Earlier this year, grants ranging from $25,000 to $50,000 were awarded to seven schools by the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association's Campaign for Caring. Of the $316,000 in Nursing Education Program Grant (NEPG) funding awarded, $148,000 in matching funds was provided to six of the schools by Arizona AHEC, founded at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center.

The grant recipients are: Arizona Western College, Yuma ($50,000); Cochise College, Douglas ($50,000); Coconino Community College, Flagstaff ($46,000); Mohave Community College, Lake Havasu City ($50,000); Northland Pioneer College, Holbrook ($45,000); Pima Community College, Tucson ($50,000); and Yavapai College, Prescott ($25,000). (Yavapai declined the Arizona AHEC matching funds, believing its $25,000 award sufficient to accomplish its goal.)

As part of its commitment, Arizona AHEC consulted with each school to help identify its needs and craft project proposals that would be most valuable to each. As a result, each project takes a unique approach to training more and better-prepared nursing students in the schools' communities.

At Northland Pioneer College in Holbrook, for example, nursing program administrators are putting a formal program in place that will create an individual education plan for each student. In its consultation with Arizona AHEC, the college reported that, owing to a tutoring program it had implemented, the pass rate for the licensure exam had nearly doubled over a two-year period. NPC and Arizona AHEC recognized the potential in developing strategies to further increase student success. In addition, having identified the cost of taking the licensure exam as an obstacle for many program graduates, NPC incorporated those costs for all participants in the project in its proposal.

While increasing the number of students in nursing programs is a high priority, retention of students and improved pass rates are critical. The strategies the community colleges will employ with their grant funding are designed to improve the quality of students' experience and to foster their success. They represent both technological advances and hands-on support, and in several instances, such as that of Northland Pioneer College, they bridge the gap between graduation and employment in health care in the community.

If successful, the demonstration projects will serve as models to enhance existing nursing programs throughout Arizona. Some of the strategies are as follows:

Arizona Western College is establishing an interactive computer lab with programs that simulate real-world situations; students can learn about medications, for example, by administering them in a "virtual hospital."

Mohave Community College is installing new computers and software to ensure that nursing students across the school's four campuses will have access to current, updated materials that can help improve their test-taking skills and their pass rates.

Cochise Community College is increasing enrollment in its nursing program by expanding its interactive television capacity. This expansion will help overcome the distance barrier faced by students throughout Cochise and Santa Cruz Counties.

Coconino Community College is focusing on retention as its top priority and will use its funding to support mandatory student travel to clinical sites in Phoenix and Tuba City.

Pima Community College will use its funding to identify students in need of social, academic and financial support and, in partnership with agencies involved in community workforce issues, such as Job Path, will refer students to receive the needed support services.

The Arizona AHEC Program has a long history of developing community-based solutions to regional health workforce needs in medically underserved communities - rural and urban. Associate Director Dana Terry notes that lessons learned from the NEPG projects will be shared throughout the state. "Our goal is to make sure that the knowledge created is accessible and that it can be replicated by other institutions," she said.

For more information, contact Dana Terry at (520) 629-4300, ext. 111, or visit