An increase in the number of students in the nursing program, as well as a plan to have them entering the profession year round, is being met with cheers from the local medical community.

Currently, Missouri Southern admits a cohort of 60 nursing students each fall. Starting in 2017, there will be a cohort of 45 students entering the nursing program in the fall and the spring.

“The increase in student numbers is in response to the shortage of professional nurses,” said Dr. Marcia Wilmes, chair of the Nursing Department. “It also decreases pressure on our local clinical facilities. From a healthcare delivery standpoint, it’s very inefficient to have a flood of graduates in May.”

Representatives from Mercy Hospital and Freeman Health System collaborated with Missouri Southern in planning the new cohort structure. Coleen Cameron, chief nursing and regulatory officer for Freeman Health System, said she is “thrilled, to say the least.”

“Nursing schools graduate most of their students in the spring … it’s a large volume,” she said. “In the winter months, it’s more difficult to find applicants for open positions.”

Dennis Manly, chief nursing officer for Mercy Hospital, agreed. “We have a nursing shortage,” he said. “It will certainly be a benefit to have more graduates coming out of nursing school to fill the need in the Joplin area.”

Both hospitals also work with Missouri Southern to give students hands-on, clinical experience while they are still in school.

“It’s a partnership between education and practice,” said Wilmes. “Our students not only work in the acute care hospital systems, but also in community clinics and home health care services. Our students get experience in all those levels.”