Mount Mercy University offering fast-track nursing degree

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) Students at Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids can now fast track a bachelor’s of science degree in nursing. Faculty hope it will help ease a nursing shortage across the country.

Students at Mount Mercy University practice nursing skills using a teaching dummy on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. The school in Cedar Rapids wants to help eliminate a nationwide shortage of nurses by offering a fast-track bachelor's degree nursing program (Jordee Kalk/KCRG)

A typical nursing degree takes four years to complete, sometimes longer. Incoming freshmen at Mount Mercy University can now graduate with a BSN in three and a half years.

Professors want their students to be as efficient as possible. That includes the quality of care given and the time spent studying for courses. Katie Stallman says the program works well, as she's set to graduate next month.

"They were willing to let me do the three and half year track, which would get me out so much sooner than other programs,” Stallman said.

Stallman is one of the first people to do the pilot-program for fast-track graduation. She already had a bachelor’s degree, so she could come in and just take the nursing courses needed.

"That really fit my schedule and where I'm at in my life right now,” Stallman said.

University staff said the program can be for second-degree seeking students, or for incoming freshman.

Incoming students have a few more requirements, including a minimum of 25 on the ACT and a 3.5 GPA. They're also encouraged to have 12 dual credit college courses. Staff said most incoming freshmen meet that checklist.

"A lot of them come in and take up another minor or another college major because they're bringing in so much college credit,” Kim Bro, Chair of Mount Mercy University Nursing Program, said. “And they need to take courses for something else besides nursing degree."

And it'll get students into the workforce faster.

The country is facing a nursing shortage, and that's expected to drastically increase by up to a million people. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing said many baby-boomer era nurses are retiring and the need for health care is growing.

"My grandmother was an operating room nurse back in the 1940s,” Stallman said.

For Stallman, she decided she wanted to follow in her family's footsteps. She'll soon be a third-generation nurse and she's already landed a job before graduation.

"I'm going to stay in the area. I'm going to work at Mercy Medical Center, they actually hired me a few months ago,” Stallman said.

She adds many of her classmates already have jobs because the need is so great across eastern Iowa.