LITTLE ROCK, Ark – Staffing shortages at hospitals in Central Arkansas and across the state are becoming all too common as the pandemic continues to overwhelm healthcare workers. 

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences is now creating a program to get more nurses in Arkansas hospitals sooner rather than later. 

“We are hoping to educate well-qualified nurses to go ahead and meet the needs of Arkansans,” said UAMS College of Nursing Dean Patricia Cowan. 

Cowan says the hospital will be launching a program to help speed up the process between nurses’ time in the classroom to the hospital, completing a BSN in 15 months instead of two years. 

Usually, a BSN takes students 4 years to complete. This will cut down that time by more than half. 

“They’ll still take the same number of nursing credits, it’s just consolidated,” said Cowan. 

The program will be a 15-month session geared toward students who have already completed their degrees in other fields and are looking to take on nursing as a new career. 

The program will begin out of UAMS Northwest Arkansas location and his graduates are expected to trickle down into hospitals all over Arkansas including Little Rock. 

UAMS says they started planning for the program years ago but that it is launching at the perfect time when nurses are needed now more than ever. 

“We are working harder, there are more guidelines and there are more safety measures,” said Frances Sanders R.N. at UAMS’ Cancer Institute. 

Sanders works at the campus in Little Rock and says nurses are needed now more than ever. Even in the cancer institute, Sanders says they’re running on a less than full-staff. 

“We see 80 to 150 patients a day. They are all in and out and we do that with 11 to 12 nurses a day,” Sanders said. 

Sanders says in the past year she’s seen a lot of people toss the scrubs and get out of the nursing professional altogether. During COVID, many nurses have had to be a patient’s support system because visitors aren’t allowed. 

“We’ve had people coming through our cancer institute who have been diagnosed, who have had cancer, surgeries, they’ve had chemotherapy for their cancers with no one there,” said Sanders. “They’re doing it all alone.” 

Cowan said in the next year she is predicting there will be able 5,000 R.N. spots that need filling. She’s hoping the new program at UAMS can help that shortage even just by a little. 

Applications for the program open in September and the hospital will choose about 25 to begin classes in May with an August 2023 graduation date.

Sanders says despite the burnout she and other nurses have experienced this past year, she still puts on the scrubs every day. 

“Nurses go to nursing school to take care of people and I still want to do that, I still love to do that,” said Sanders. 

Sanders says she is hoping with the help of the program, more will join her in the future.