Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008

Holy Cross plan to boost health care education

Partnership with college would let hospital staff serve as faculty

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Holy Cross Hospital's proposal to build a new 93-bed hospital on the ground of Montgomery College's Germantown campus would help solve one of the problems hospitals face today: too few trained workers, hospital officials said.

If approved, Holy Cross would allow qualified senior nurses to take time away from working the hospitals to teach at Montgomery College's Germantown campus, said Holy Cross Hospital CEO and President Kevin J. Sexton.

By 2016, a Maryland Hospital Association study projects the state will be short 10,000 nurses alone to meet the health care needs of aging baby boomers, association spokeswoman Nancy Fiedler said.

The association is working with Maryland legislators to come up with a way by the end of next year to double the number of nurses educated in the state from close to 2,800 to roughly 5,600, she said.

"A lot of candidates are out there, but are being turned away from nursing schools due to a lack of faculty," Fiedler said.

Part of the problem is the health care workers "are graying like the rest of us," she said.

The U.S. Census released a forecast last week that showed in 2030, when the last of the baby boom generation hits 65, one in five people will be 65 or older.

That age group will grow to 88.5 million by 2050; more than double the current number in the age group now.

That older population is going to need more health care workers to care for them, she said.

Many hospitals are already taking their own steps to educate more health care workers, she said. Holy Cross is an example.

Students can become a nurse after two years of training and then once they're employed at the hospital can continue their education to earn a four-year degree, Sexton said.

The college's Board of Trustees must approve the deal.

Offering hospital staffers the opportunity to teach will help retain them, Sexton said. "Nurses get burned out."

The partnership with the college also would allow for more clinical, hands-on work at the hospital and in the health care centers, Sexton said.