Bills Call for Michigan Community Colleges to Provide 4-Year Nursing Degrees

​The pandemic has already made a bad situation worse and the proposed legislation would help address staffing shortages and narrow health care disparities in rural areas, advocates say.

woman in scrubs takes another woman's blood pressure

The Michigan State House Education Committee has advanced bipartisan bills that would allow community colleges to offer four-year Bachelor of Science in nursing degrees. 

Michigan is in the middle of a fourth COVID-19 wave – with dozens of hospitals in the state at 75% capacity or more. Local hospitals are understaffed and looking for ways to get more nurses into the system. Often, hospitals rely on nurses who are still in school.  

State Rep. John Roth (R-Traverse City) says there is a “serious need” because the pandemic has exacerbated the nursing shortage

“Now with the burnout rate with COVID, [a four-year nursing degree] is a severe need that we need at our community colleges,” Roth said.  

Roth’s wife is a registered nurse. He says similar legislation was discussed more than a decade ago, but received pushback from four-year colleges.  

Bethany Corner, an ICU nurse and educator in Midland, says passing these bills will help narrow the health care disparities people in rural areas are facing.  

“Don’t all of our communities whether you’re big or small deserve nurses that have that higher level of education so you can feel confident feel confident that you’re getting the best absolute care that you can?” she said.  

Opponents of the legislation say the bill would not improve access to nursing degrees and instead would intensify the need for nursing instructors. 

Judy Didion, the dean of the Nursing School at Oakland University, says the bills would extend the time for new nurses to begin working in the field, among other problems.  

“These bills would not improve accessibility to nursing education, in fact passing these bills would further limit clinical training opportunities for students and what we consider the most significant barrier in nursing education, which is continued shortage of qualified nursing faculty,” Didion said.  

It’s unclear when the bills might get brought up for a vote in the full House.  

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  • Russ McNamara
    Russ McNamara is the host of All Things Considered for 101.9 WDET, presenting local news to the station’s loyal listeners. He's been an avid listener of WDET since he moved to metro Detroit in 2002.