COLUMBIA, S.C. — Students interested in pursuing a Bachelor's in Nursing Degree can now do so at USC Sumter this fall.
This comes after years of conversations between the university and local hospitals regarding a nursing shortage in South Carolina.
"I've always wanted to stay local and staying at home really helps the financial burden," said USC Sumter student, Katy Ladouceur. "I am just so thankful."
Ladouceur just finished her sophomore year at USC Sumter, earning an Associate of Science degree.
This fall, she's staying put as part of the first group in the university's 4-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program.
"There's such a need right now for nurses. I'm just thankful to be able to have the opportunity to join this amazing field," said Ladouceur.
The need for nurses isn't exclusive to Sumter. It's nationwide.
The American Nurses Association says by next year, there will be far more registered nurse jobs available than any other profession - at more than 100,000 per year.
With more than 500-thousand RN's set to retire by next year, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics project the need for 1.1 million new RN's to avoid a nursing shortage.
"Hospitals are raising their expectations of the level of education folks come in with. We saw that need and that's what this program is meant to do is fill that need."
Michael Sonntag, the Dean of USC Sumter, says not only will this program fill jobs, it will help keep these nurses local.
"In the past they might go to another community," said Sonntag. "Of course they do their clinical work in those communities and the hospitals in those communities hire them and they don't come back."
The new program is a partnership with USC Aiken. Students will begin at USC Sumter students and complete their nursing core courses. From there, they'll apply for the nursing program in which they'll become a USC Aiken at Sumter student.
Classes and clinicals will take place in a redesigned area of the school's library.
"Right now we have two high-fidelity mannequins," said Program Manager, Tina Simenson.
She says the program will start as a telecommunications classroom.
"That will help us transmit the classes from Aiken to our students on our campus with a classroom-away-from-the-classroom," said Simenson. "Hopefully we'll be able to do more face-to-face classes down the road."
Dean Sonntag says the program is possible thanks to grants, donors and legislative support.
"This is not a project we went into lightly," he said. "We're not going in on a whim or a hunch that this will work. We knew if we could deliver it that both local and regional medical facilities would benefit from it."
To learn more about USC Sumter's BSN program, click here.