Topics: College of Applied Sciences and Technology, Online Education

February 21, 2008

Who did Miller's Health Systems Inc. — a leading statewide provider of nursing homes and assisted living facilities — call to increase its number of registered nurses?

Ball State University's School of Nursing.

Indiana, and the rest of the nation, is in the midst of a nursing shortage that is expected to intensify as baby boomers age and their need for health care grows, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Looking to solve this problem long before it impacts the quality of its medical services, Miller's partnered with Ball State to allow its licensed practical nurses (LPNs) to earn a bachelor's degree in nursing while working a regular schedule.

Through Ball State's School of Extended Education, Miller's employees complete the degree using traditional and online courses. The program, which is offered at five Miller's locations, also prepares LPNs to pass the national council licensure exam for registered nurses (RNs).

In addition to offering convenience for employees, the program allows Miller's to promote its employees in-house. It also brings more registered nurses to the rural and underserved areas which Miller's serves, says Patrick Boyle, Miller's president and CEO.

"We have a strong focus on education for our employees, and the Ball State program provides another avenue for them to take the next step up the professional ladder," he said.

The company has 31 locations statewide and is piloting this program at its locations in Chesterfield, Middletown, Dunkirk, Hartford City and Tipton. In the next two years, 10 more locations will be added. Ball State is looking to extend this program to other hospitals as well, said Linda Siktberg, director of the School of Nursing.

"Our overarching goal is to improve the ratio of RNs to patients at medical facilities statewide," she explained. "Miller's wants to provide educational opportunities for its employees, and in all medical facilities, we want qualified registered nurses handling the patients' assessment and care.

"Miller's Health Systems is a great partner, and this program is an ideal medium to meet everyone's goals."

The fact that graduates from the School of Nursing had a 100 percent pass rate on the most recent round of state licensing exams helped affirm that Ball State was the right choice for Miller's, Boyle added.

"We want the best education for our employees, and knowing that Ball State's passing rate is consistently at the top definitely factored into our decision to partner with the university," he said.