Traverse City News and Events

2023 State Budget Will Bring Nursing Bachelor's Degrees To NMC At Long Last

By Craig Manning | July 22, 2022

Michigan's recently-approved state budget for the 2023 fiscal year will bring four-year nursing degrees to Traverse City, per a joint press release issued Thursday by Northwestern Michigan College (NMC) and Munson Healthcare.

The budget, which was passed by the legislature several weeks ago and signed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday, includes a $56 million appropriation that will “support the development of programs for nurses with associate degrees to complete their bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) on community college campuses,” according to the NMC/Munson release.

Essentially, this news means community colleges like NMC can partner with four-year colleges or universities to devise “BSN completion programs.” Nurses who already hold associate’s degrees in nursing will then be able to continue their education and earn their BSN degrees on community college campuses. Community colleges will also be allowed to localize the programs via feedback “from local employers and workforce development agencies,” including hospital systems like Munson Healthcare.

The appropriation comes after a years-long effort on the part of NMC to win the right for community colleges to offer BSN degrees. That effort has repeatedly been stalled by pushback from four-year colleges and universities, which have argued that their nursing programs could meet the need for bachelor-certified nurses in Michigan and that there was therefore no need for community colleges to offer the degree. Especially since the beginning of the pandemic, though, NMC has pointed to a shortage of nurses in rural areas like northern Michigan as proof that the state could use more nurses.

NMC President Nick Nissley acknowledged that NMC has been working for a long time to create “a seamless transition from ADN [associate’s degree in nursing] to BSN” for nursing students in the region. Previously, nursing students have mostly had to travel downstate to work toward BSN degrees. “We know our community, like many, faces a nursing shortage,” Nissley said. “This legislation is an important step towards solving that challenge.”

Representative John Roth, who had sponsored a bill late last year that would have allowed community colleges to design and offer their own BSN programs, told The Ticker in May that the legislation was unlikely to move forward as written, and that a group of state lawmakers, community colleges, healthcare systems, and four-year universities was working together on an alternative “compromise” bill. The BSN completion program is the result of that compromise, and it's a result Roth has dubbed “a big win for northern Michigan.”

“Meeting patient demand has been an issue even before COVID-19 came to our state and this is an effective solution to get more nurses into our hospitals,” Roth said. “Aspiring nurses who go off to a four-year university may not return to live, work, and raise a family. Providing the resources to expand degree options locally will allow for more people to specialize right in their community and care for their communities.”

NMC and Munson predict the new program will “significantly increase” the number of BSN nurses working in the state of Michigan, including right here in Traverse City. Notably, NMC has graduated 91 ADN nurses in the past two years, 64 of whom went on to be employed by Munson. A similar pipeline of BSN graduates to Munson would significantly move the needle for the healthcare system, which has been contending with a much-publicized nursing shortage as of late.

Ed Ness, president and CEO of Munson Healthcare, praised legislators for taking steps “to remove barriers for degree and career advancement,” and called the BSN completion program “a new tool to support replenishing our healthcare pipeline.”

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