State to double size of LPN training program

  • Assistant professor Courtney Rogers demonstrates flushing an IV catheter for a group of nursing students at Colby-Sawyer College in New London, N.H., on Tuesday, March 22, 2022. The college has pledged to increase enrollment in its undergraduate nursing program to help address the shortage of nurses in the region and state. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Alex Driehaus

  • Assistant professor Jennifer Whitton, right, helps nursing students Janelle Piper, center, and Abby Pitchford practice setting up IVs at Colby-Sawyer College in New London, N.H., on Tuesday, March 22, 2022. The college plans to build a new 10.5 million building for its nursing and health sciences programs, which is expected to open in May of 2024. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Alex Driehaus

Monitor staff
Published: 4/18/2022 6:24:47 PM
Modified: 4/18/2022 6:23:29 PM

The state is funneling millions of dollars into expanding licensed practical nurse training programs as the shortage of healthcare workers intensifies. 

The Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee voted last week to double the community college LPN training program, using $2.6 million of American Rescue Plan Act dollars. The investment was made in hopes of beefing up the workforce pipeline to meet demand in hospitals and long-term care facilities. 

"To make investments into our economy, we must make necessary investments into our workforce – and doubling our LPN nursing program is the right move," Gov. Chris Sununu said in a statement. 

Licensed practical nurses are employed by most healthcare facilities to record patients’ vitals, give medications, feed and bathe patients, among other things. 

The community college LPN training program debuted in 2020 at River Valley Community College in Claremont and then expanded to Laconia and Littleton.

The one-year program allows students to immediately enter into the nursing workforce and also gives graduates the opportunity to continue their education and progress to the registered nurse level, which could also help mitigate a shortage there.

New Hampshire, like many states, has struggled with a worsening shortage of nurses. Between June 2019 and May 2020, 2,381 nursing assistants allowed their licenses to lapse, while 1,672 new licenses were issued, ultimately creating a net loss of 709 LNAs.

About one in five health care workers have left their jobs since the start of the pandemic nationwide.

“What we see happening at the tail end of the surge is the buildup of a backlog of critically important non-COVID care that needs to be met,” said Concord Hospital CEO Robert Steigmeyer. “The ramping up of non-COVID care in a significant way is challenging for all of us from a workforce perspective.”

Brendan Williams, the president and CEO of N.H. Health Care Association, said nursing homes and hospitals — desperate from a shortage of licensed nurses — all clamor for the same few medical staff who parachute in from faraway states to fill empty shifts.

Increased demand drives up the price charged by travel nurse agencies until the nurses’ hourly rates are triple or quadruple what a facility would pay their regular staff.

In order to maintain federally required staff-to-resident ratios, nursing homes often rely on temporary nurses to fill their shifts. Advocates say staffing agencies have seized on a moment of desperation and raised prices exponentially over the last several months. Facilities are forced to pay hefty prices, even if that means they can no longer afford to care for as many residents.

Other nurse training programs have similarly expanded in recent years to meet high demand. 

In February, Concord Hospital announced a partnership with New England College that allowed nursing students to be hired during their training. College and hospital administrators said the program gave students valuable clinical experience and relieved hospital employees who have worked through several waves of COVID-19.

The N.H. Board of Nursing also passed an emergency rule aimed at streamlining a portion of the licensing process for certain health care workers in 2021. 

Teddy Rosenbluth bio photo

Teddy Rosenbluth is a Report for America corps member covering health care issues for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. She has covered science and health care for Los Angeles Magazine, the Santa Monica Daily Press and UCLA's Daily Bruin, where she was a health editor and later magazine director. Her investigative reporting has brought her everywhere from the streets of Los Angeles to the hospitals of New Delhi. Her work garnered first place for Best Enterprise News Story from the California Journalism Awards, and she was a national finalist for the Society of Professional Journalists Best Magazine Article. She graduated from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in psychobiology.

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