Nursing student working with a robot. (U-I photo)

Due to factors ranging from retirement to COVID burnout, some studies show Iowa hospitals will be short hundreds of nurses in the coming few years, and the University of Iowa is stepping up its effort to train more of the vital medical professionals.

Dr. Sandy Daack-Hirsch, executive associate dean of the U-I College of Nursing, says the first class of students will start in January in the new “Master of Science in Nursing — Entry into Practice” program.

“This is for people who have a degree in some other major, other than nursing, maybe out working, may have just finished college but have decided, ‘Hey, you know, I think I might want to be a nurse,'” Daack-Hirsch says. “This gives people an option to get a nursing degree at the masters level, but entry into practice is at the RN licensure.”

The 15-month program has fewer than 20 students in the first class, but the U-I plans to ramp up quickly in the coming years to 48 students in per class. The U-I has also long offered a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, or BSN. “We graduate 80 students in December and then we graduate 80 students again in the spring from our BSN program. That’s the program that we offer to incoming freshmen,” Daack-Hirsch says. “This is 48 more students in addition to that, so that’s a pretty big jump for us.”

Decades ago, a majority of nurses in the U.S. were women, but that’s been steadily changing. “We’re not at 50-50, but we have a growing number of men in nursing,” Daack-Hirsch says. “I would say that we see a nice increase every year.” About half of the Iowa City institution’s BSN program graduates stay in Iowa to practice and she’s hopeful the master program will attract even more people who will remain in-state to put their valued skills to use.