With the new year come new opportunities on the Vineyard: Cape Cod Community College announced this week that it will begin offering a nursing program on the Island in 2013.
Responding to a need on the Island for more and better-trained health care professionals, the college will offer a program starting in the fall aimed at enabling licensed practical nurses to become registered nurses. Registered nurses are able to perform a wider range of healthcare functions, but need an associate’s degree in nursing.
College president John Cox planned to visit the Island today to discuss details of the program with a group of Vineyard health care and education leaders, including representatives from Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, Windemere Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and the Vineyard Nursing Association, and Vineyard schools superintendent James Weiss.
Mr. Cox told the Gazette Thursday that the goal is to begin offering nursing courses in the fall, but that the school could start offering some general education courses as early as this spring for prospective students who have a desire to learn, but have no nursing experience.
“It really depends on the student body we’re able to define as we put this together,” he said. “We’re finding in our discussions that there are students that are not up to the LPN (licensed practical nurse), but there is interest.”
Susan Maddigan, dean of health sciences and social sciences at the college, said the program originated through interest on Island, and the Vineyard’s ongoing struggle with having enough health care providers on the Island.
Vineyarders reached out to Mr. Cox, she said, and during a visit to the Island, “he had a clear sense of a need for health programs on the Vineyard . . . It does seem that there’s a distinct need.”
The nursing program, though catering to a specific group of people, is the latest effort to bring college courses to the Island. ACE-MV, working with Cape Cod Community College, has offered courses for college credit for about five years, said Lynn Ditchfield, director of ACE-MV. Most of these have been geared toward early childhood education.
While Ms. Maddigan said there aren’t concrete plans for other degree programs or courses on the Island, “I think there’s a distinct openness to that,” she said, adding that the college will gauge the interest of community members.
Ms. Maddigan said Vineyarders have enrolled in the college’s nursing program in the past, and “the college always felt that the Vineyard was part of its area.” But the commute to the West Barnstable campus, including a ferry ride, poses difficulties for students.
President Cox said the program is being created in collaboration with Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, Windemere, Vineyard Nursing Association and members of a health care education collaborative that has been working to address health care needs on the Island, as well as the school superintendent.
None of the Island groups are providing funding for the program, but have offered expertise and office and classroom space, Mr. Cox said. Students who take classes will be charged tuition, with financial available for those in need.
The exact location where classes will be held is one of the items still to be determined, and it is likely that some will be partly offered online, he said.
Courses requiring lab space will be held at Marine Biological Laboratory facility in Woods Hole.
The staff and faculty will be hired by the Cape Cod Community College, but Ms. Maddigan said if there are people who live on-Island with knowledge and credentials, they will be interviewed.
“The president and the college are really committed to making this work and making it easy for students on the Vineyard to get courses they need,” Ms. Maddigan said.
“I would hope that the students would be able to do two classes a semester, which is quite demanding,” she said. “A lot depends on the student body and if they work full time and have community or family commitments, we may have to slow things down.”
Those interested can attend information sessions on Tuesday, Jan. 8 at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. that will offer information about the program. The meetings will take place at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School library conference room, with advisors on hand throughout the day to provide individual guidance about the program, including scheduling and financial aid.
Mr. Cox, who was named president of the college in July and now lives in Falmouth, said he had a personal interest in its success.
“This is the first major initiative I’ve been involved in, and I want to make sure it works,” he said.