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New NCMC certificate could fill need for practical nurses

 An Aerial view of North Central Michigan College in Petoskey.
An aerial view of North Central Michigan College in Petoskey. (Photo: Courtesy of NCMC)

Starting next year, North Central Michigan College will offer a practical nurse certificate program.

In an announcement, the community college in Petoskey said the program will help address regional and statewide shortages.

The three-semester, cohort-style program is a collaborative effort with regional hospitals and nursing facilities like McLaren Northern Michigan in Petoskey, Medilodge of Gaylord and Bay Bluffs in Emmet County.

All of them are still experiencing labor shortages left behind by the pandemic.

Before COVID, facilities and organizations were using practical nurses less and less, with a goal of all nurses having bachelor's degrees, said Brent LaFaive, dean of nursing and health sciences at NCMC.

“Since COVID, with so many people exiting the profession, we've really found a need for nurses being trained at any level," LaFaive said. "And the people that are applying in northern Michigan are looking for any type of entry into the healthcare field.”

Unlike registered nurses, practical nurses only required a certificate rather than an associate's or bachelor's degree.

Depending on the facility, they carry similar responsibilities as RNs and can earn $25 per hour locally, with wages set to increase to $30 per hour within five years, LaFaive said.

“Many of our skilled nursing facilities in the area have long, long waiting lists, because they don't have staff, they have beds, but they don't have staff,” he said. “So, the hope is that we are able to reach a different set of people that we see the practical nurse program who don't want a long, rigorous academic program.”

Students will complete traditional lecture and lab work in North Central’s simulation lab as well as on-site training at the college’s 10 clinical locations.

While classes begin in January, prospective students should apply to the program soon. The program is limited to 40 students per cohort.

“A holistic approach to nursing education involves providing students with multiple entry points into their career,” said Stephen Strom, vice president of academic affairs in a press release. “Students who complete a Fast Track program can return to complete a PN degree when it makes sense for them personally and professionally. With clinical work experience, they can advance to our RN program and continue their educational path as they desire.”

Michael Livingston covers the area around the Straits of Mackinac - including Cheboygan, Charlevoix, Emmet and Otsego counties as a Report for America corps member.