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July 12, 2023

Hartford HealthCare, ECSU partner to address nursing shortage; new simulation lab eyed

PHOTO | CONTRIBUTED  The Science Building at Eastern Connecticut State University.

Hartford HealthCare and Eastern Connecticut State University announced Tuesday they are forming a new partnership to help fix the state’s ongoing nursing shortage.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates about 203,200 openings for registered nurses each year through 2031 nationwide.

According to the Governor’s Workforce Council, Connecticut’s nursing programs graduate fewer than 2,000 nurses annually, but the state needs that number to be closer to 3,000 to meet demand.

Meanwhile, due to inadequate faculty and clinical placements, the state’s nursing programs currently can only accept about 25% of qualified students, according to the announcement.

The new partnership aims to address these problems. Willimantic-based ECSU is launching a bachelor of science in nursing program this fall. Also, there are plans to construct a new simulation lab facility at Windham Hospital, which is in Willimantic and part of Hartford HealthCare’s network, to help train students.

Windham Hospital

This simulation lab is still in the planning and design phase, with construction expected to begin shortly. It will feature rooms that simulate clinical settings, from bedside nursing to critical care. Plans are for it to also have high-tech mannequins that can simulate various clinical situations.

Hartford HealthCare and ECSU will share the cost of the simulation lab, which will be used by both ECSU students and HHC staff.

ECSU’s nursing program has received a $1.2 million grant from the CT Health Horizons initiative, a $35-million state effort aimed at addressing Connecticut’s nursing shortage.

ECSU plans to use the grant toward the Windham Hospital simulation lab, three new faculty positions, and for three smaller clinical skills labs on its campus, including a maternity room, two-bed hospital room and examination room. These campus labs are slated to open this fall.

ECSU’s new four-year bachelor’s degree in nursing will include courses in biology, chemistry, human anatomy, physiology, pharmacology and nutrition. Students can also study specialty areas such as maternal and newborn care nursing, geriatric nursing, psychiatric and mental health nursing, and community and public health nursing.

Once students complete their degree, they will be eligible to take the National Council of State Boards of Nursing Licensing Examination to become registered nurses.

University officials will seek accreditation for the program from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and the Connecticut State Board of Examiners for Nursing, according to the announcement.

Rocco Orlando, chief academic officer for HHC, said the nursing shortage is “most profound” in the eastern part of Connecticut, which is also the least populous.

Orlando noted ECSU is close to Windham Hospital, making it “ideal” for the partnership.

"We looked at the synergies and adjacencies of our two campuses, just two blocks apart," Orlando said. "Simulation space was the only limiting factor (for Eastern). We're happy to provide that space."

ECSU President Elsa Nunez said the partnership means students will be able to train in a new simulation lab, while also securing invaluable clinical placements as they prepare to become nurses.

“Together we will be a part of the solution to the nursing shortage while preparing dozens of students for rewarding, meaningful careers," Nunez said.

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