Pueblo Community College, including its campuses in Mancos and Durango, will offer an online program for a bachelor’s degree in nursing in fall 2019.
Paula Kirchner, who will soon assume the duties of dean of nursing at PCC, said students first will have to get their associate degree in nursing and pass their state board exams before pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing.
During the program, Kirchner said, students will be paired with a preceptor, a practicing nurse to shadow as they complete practicum hours. The nursing faculty will assist students in finding their preceptors, she said.
The campuses in Mancos and Durango go by the name Pueblo Community College Southwest.
During this year’s session of the Colorado General Assembly, lawmakers passed House Bill 1086, which allowed community colleges to offer Bachelor of Science degrees in nursing. Gov. John Hickenlooper allowed it to become law without his signature.
Four-year bachelor’s degrees in nursing typically have been bestowed by four-year colleges, not community colleges. But lawmakers who supported the measure said the demand for nurses isn’t being met.
PCC President Patty Erjavec told The Durango Herald when the bill passed the Legislature that PCC’s program will allow nurses to earn a bachelor’s degree without leaving the area.
“It will just elevate that level of care for our citizens, especially in the rural areas, she said.
She expects enrollment in the program will grow faster than numbers of students in registered nursing classes because it won’t be limited by the number of hours that students must spend in medical settings.
In addition to the new degree, PCC will create a Division of Nursing to accommodate its growing programs.
The division will begin operating July 1 under the leadership of Kirchner, who will become dean of the Nursing Division. She currently serves as interim director of the nursing program and is a longtime PCC instructor.
The programs included in the Division of Nursing are nursing programs, surgical technology, psychiatric technician, medical assistant, nurse’s aide and certified addiction counselor.
Kirchner graduated from PCC’s nursing program in 1994. She received a bachelor’s in nursing from Colorado State University-Pueblo in 2006 and a master’s from Regis University in 2011.
She was a registered nurse at Parkview Medical Center for 22 years, 16 of them as nurse manager of the Kidsville Pediatric Unit.
In 2011, she returned to PCC as a faculty member in the nursing program; she has been interim director since October 2017.