The LSU Health Sciences Center in Shreveport is about to get its first nursing program. Capitalizing on the resources of the existing health sciences center there and aiming to respond to the needs of health care employers in the Shreveport area, the LSU Health New Orleans School of Nursing will be opening an off-campus instructional site in 2023.
“Our School of Nursing in New Orleans consistently ranks among the top schools in the nation with high scores on national licensing exams, so it makes sense for us to partner with LSU Health Shreveport as an expansion site for our program,” says Linda Ledet, DNS, APRN, PMHCNS-BC, Assistant Professor of Clinical Nursing.
Offering the Career Alternative RN Education (CARE) Program
CARE, the School of Nursing’s accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program, will be replicated in Shreveport, allowing students who already have a bachelor’s degree in another concentration to earn their BSN in less than two years. CARE is designed for professionals looking to change their careers to nursing.
“The students returning to school for the CARE program are exciting to teach. They are focused and eager to learn, confident and willing to engage,” says Dr. Ledet, who teaches in the program in New Orleans and will serve as the program director in Shreveport.
CARE is a very intense program with classes divided into five-week blocks.
“What we would normally teach in 15 weeks in a traditional BSN program, we cover in five weeks in CARE,” Dr. Ledet says. Classes meet in person, five days a week, and some clinicals may take place in the evenings. “It is a huge commitment for students, most of whom are not able to work while they are in school.”
Class size is limited for this very competitive program. The CARE program prepares students for the National Council Licensure Exam in Registered Nursing (NCLEX-RN) and a career in professional nursing. Graduates are qualified to work in a variety of clinical settings and can choose a specific direction for their career from there.
Expanding Opportunities for Students and Employers
Expanding the CARE program will make room for more nursing students and ultimately provide more nurses for health care employers in the Shreveport area. One of the largest health care employers in Shreveport, Ochsner Health, has already partnered with LSU to support the program with clinical teaching and learning sites.
“LSU and Ochsner Health are partnered through a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement for shared governance of Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport to manage and operate all clinical services and to provide clinical learning opportunities for health care education and training of LSU Health Science students,” says Jeannine Hinton, LCSW, MHA, Vice President of Academics at Ochsner LSU Shreveport.
The School of Nursing in New Orleans will hire additional faculty to support the program in Shreveport, and as the program grows, so will the faculty. The School of Nursing hopes to add other programs to the Shreveport site in the future.
“As an employer, LSU has a lot to offer faculty in terms of professional development. LSU focuses on faculty as teachers but also as scholars and service providers,” Dr. Ledet says. “LSU offers mentorship and leadership programs for faculty development. Administration puts an emphasis on engagement in professional organizations and involvement in the industry.”
The expansion program will capitalize on existing resources in Shreveport, like the health sciences center’s library and IT support, and will collaborate with other schools at the health sciences center. The Shreveport campus also offers counseling and other supportive resources that will be available to CARE students.
The Shreveport and New Orleans programs will share some faculty, broadcasting some lectures via Zoom. In that way, the New Orleans program will be enriched by the Shreveport expansion and the expert faculty they hire.
“LSU is eager for this program that will expand our capacity to educate nurses,” Dr. Ledet says. “Last year, 1,700 students applied to nursing programs in Louisiana and met the entrance criteria, but there were not enough openings.”
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) is planning to visit the Shreveport site this summer. Once they officially approve the program, the School of Nursing can begin accepting applications for the fall of 2023 at the Shreveport site.
“We’ll begin by admitting 20 students for the first two semesters,” Dr. Ledet says. “In time, we hope to grow the program to match the 60 to 80 students we admit each fall at the New Orleans campus.”
Working Together to Get Nurses Working
Like many communities across Louisiana, Shreveport is facing a nursing shortage.
“We had a nationwide shortage of nurses before the pandemic, but now our nursing workforce is even more depleted,” Dr. Ledet says. “The CARE program in Shreveport will provide more nurses for health care employers in the area.”
Ochsner Health operates a tertiary/quaternary care center and Level 1 Trauma Center that serves all of North Louisiana. “Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport provides the most complex care in the region. The need for BSN-level nurses is critical to sustain this level of care for all the communities in North Louisiana,” Hinton says.
“Having a nursing program in Shreveport is a win for the area’s health care facilities,” Dr. Ledet says. “It will also benefit members of the community who want to train for a rewarding career in nursing.”
“Opportunities for employment of new graduates is excellent. Demand for nurses is great and will continue to be into the foreseeable future,” Hinton says.