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Programs Aim to Retrain Autoworkers as Nurses

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By Debra Wood, RN, contributor

With Detroit automobile manufacturers planning tens of thousands of layoffs, area hospitals and colleges have teamed up to offer displaced autoworkers opportunities to retrain as nurses.

“This is one of our many ways of addressing a nursing shortage that we are experiencing in southeast Michigan,” said Jeraldine Jackson, RN, MSN, MDiv, administrator for nursing development and research at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, which has partnered with Oakland University, in Rochester, to offer two year-round bachelor of science in nursing tracks: a one-year program for people with an existing four-year science-related degree and a three-year program for students with little or no prior college education.

By 2015, the Michigan Department of Labor & Economic Growth estimates the state will need an additional 18,000 nurses.

“The automotive industry is moving in the other direction and it is our goal to help Michigan workers thrive in this economy,” said Jill M. Vondrasek, spokesperson for the Michigan State University (MSU) College of Nursing, which has teamed up with four hospitals to offer displaced autoworkers an accelerated BSN program.

“By targeting this population, we do two things,” said Linda Kruso, director of workforce planning for Beaumont Hospitals in Royal Oak, Michigan, one of the participating hospitals. “We help individuals who need to train and take a different path, and we increase nurses in the pipeline.”

Michigan’s Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital Funds, a program designed to train more high-quality health care workers at an accelerated pace, provided funding for MSU to develop the accelerated BSN curriculum. Participating hospitals include Ingham Regional Medical Center in Lansing, Oakwood Healthcare System and Sparrow Health System in Lansing.

More than 250 people attended an educational seminar at Beaumont this winter, with many of the participants being men. About 50 displaced autoworkers have attended informational sessions at Henry Ford.

Henry Ford originally had limited the program to Ford Motor Co. employees but has expanded it to include displaced workers at General Motors Corp. and DaimlerChrysler AG.

Employee buyout packages should cover tuition. Henry Ford also offers tuition funding for a three-year employment commitment.

The Oakland College/Henry Ford program will admit its first students in the fall, with students completing their practicums at one of three Henry Ford hospitals: Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital in Wyandotte or Henry Ford Bi-County Hospital in Warren. The health system will hire new graduates who pass the NCLEX licensure exam.

MSU will admit 48 students in May. Sixteen will complete their clinical rotations at Beaumont, under the supervision of a clinical nurse specialist and staff nurse preceptors.

“This is a creative way to help increase the supply of nurses in the community,” Kruso said. “It’s great we can help people who have need of a career change to take advantage of the opportunity to become a nurse.”

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