An Oklahoma University Nursing Program has begun in Northeast Oklahoma through the collaborative effort of OU, Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College, Career Techs, and INTEGRIS Grove General Hospital.

The program is timely and welcomed in the face of a national shortage of nurses that’s reported to be severe in Oklahoma. Several years ago, a United States Department of Health and Human Services’ report, Oklahoma Health Care Workforce Challenges, ranked Oklahoma 46th in the nation with only 6.35 Registered Nurses per 1,000 residents.

The local OU nursing program had its beginning in an Advisory Counsel meeting in the lakeside home of one of its members.

INTEGRIS Grove General Hospital’s Director of Human Resources, Vicki Cossairt, remembered a preliminary discussion about working together to bridge education opportunities for CNA to LPN, LPN to RN, and RN to BSN and further, that would be cost-friendly without going away to get them.

As Cossairt considered the possibilities for OU’s participation in a program in Grove, she asked herself, “Why not us?”

She spoke with hospital president, Greg Martin, and evoked his mandate to “do whatever we can to make this happen!”

Contact with Career Tech, NEO and OU produced a meeting in October 2006. Another meeting in November was followed by two Open Houses in December and January. And the first students were on board in August 2007.

To this initial RN to BSN Career Mobility Program birthed here in 2007, INTEGRIS Grove General Hospital provides the facilities for clinical experiences. The first students will graduate in September 2008, and “walk” in the May commencement.

“We’re very excited about the availability for our nurses to become better prepared and be able to advance in Bachelors and Masters,” explained Cossairt.

With more than 5,000 additional nurses needed in Oklahoma just to meet the national average, the biggest challenge is to increase educational capacity.

“The long-range goals for the collaborative OU program will be retaining the nurses we have, helping them become better prepared, and become adjunct staff, allowing for the best possible return-ship,” reported Cossairt.

An expanded Collaborative Program—RN to BSN—will be a four-year program, with the first two years at NEO Miami, third year as OU student at NEO Miami, and fourth year as OU student at NEO extension in Grove.

 “We’re offering our community a variety of choices,” said Cossairt, “to attain and advance in a career in health care—a profession riddled with shortages.”