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Alpena Community College, Alpena hospital back nursing bill

News Photo by Crystal Nelson Alpena Community College nursing lab manager Terry McKenzie on Friday listens to a mannequin with his stethoscope in the college’s nursing laboratory.

ALPENA — Legislation that would allow community colleges in Michigan to offer a bachelor’s degree in nursing has made its way to the floor of the state Senate for a vote.

The legislation, which has failed in previous years, still must pass the Senate, the House, and get Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s signature to become law.

Alpena Community College officials say the legislation would meet a need in the community.

College President Don MacMaster said about 100 nurses at MidMichigan Medical Center-Alpena will be expected to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing — or BSN — by Jan. 1, 2025 as the hospital works toward a Magnet status from the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

Hospital President Chuck Sherwin said that, right now, nurses either travel or learn online to obtain their bachelor’s degree in nursing. He said it would be “greatly beneficial” if ACC were able to offer nurses a four-year degree.

“If ACC was able to do that, and get a BSN program, they would train in such a way that would create and educate fabulous nurses,” he said. “They do a great job in the two-year program today, and I just know it would be that much better in a four-year BSN program.”

Sherwin said BSN-prepared nurses as a whole have fewer patients with injuries after a fall, have fewer medication complications, and fewer patients who get infections.

“Research is very clear that the clinical outcomes of patients overall that are cared for by BSN nurses is slightly higher than non-BSN nurses,” Sherwin said.

Not only would the legislation allow nursing students to earn a four-year degree at community colleges, including ACC, MacMaster said it would allow them to do so at an affordable rate. ACC students could complete the degree program for about $9,000, about $18,000 less than it would cost to earn the degree at a university, according to MacMaster’s estimates.

MacMaster said it could be challenging to get the legislation to pass, as it is “a controversial piece of legislation.” He said allowing community colleges to offer a BSN has always been a point of contention for colleges and universities.

According to state Senate Fiscal Agency analysis, community colleges would incur a number of new ongoing and one-time costs that could be offset by a higher tuition rate for the upper-division courses. And Daniel Hurley and Robert Lefever, of the Michigan Association of State Universities and Michigan Independent Colleges and Universities, respectively, opined in the Traverse City Record-Eagle earlier this month that the bill would create greater challenges in nursing education and amount to wasteful spending to address a need that is already being met by universities.

MacMaster said this is not the first time the issue has come before legislators. He said legislation passed in 2012 that allowed community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees in concrete technology, maritime technology, culinary arts, and power generation.

He said a BSN degree was originally included in that piece of legislation, but the bill only passed because the BSN degree was removed from the legislation.

MacMaster said the legislation has circled back around because of the shortage of BSN-trained nurses.

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