In response to dire shortages of bachelors-prepared nurses across the state, Governor Polis signed Senate Bill 22-003 to expand training pathways that will help grow and diversify Colorado’s healthcare workforce. Through this legislation, CCCS colleges and Aims Community College are now able to offer a streamlined, cost-effective pathway for Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN).
Workforce development is at the core of our mission, and we play a vital role in ensuring the availability of skilled employees, particularly for Colorado’s healthcare sector.
The program builds on nursing programs already available through CCCS colleges. Currently, 11 colleges offer LPN programs, 10 offer associate degree programs (ADN), and five offer Bachelor’s degrees in nursing with a sixth program in development. CCCS colleges will be able to leverage existing resources, equipment, and faculty to design a BSN pathway specific to LPNs.
Sponsored by Senators Janet Bucker and Kerry Donovan and Representatives Tony Exum and Kyle Mullica, SB 003 will help the state meet industry demand for bachelor’s-prepared nurses and provide upward mobility for current healthcare workers. The bill received bipartisan and unanimous support in both chambers.
“We are facing a critical shortage of qualified, well-trained healthcare professionals, and the pandemic has only made things worse,” said Sen. Buckner. “This bill will help more students pursue their dream and land a good-paying job in nursing while giving Colorado hospitals a larger and better-trained pool of employees to hire from. By expanding these opportunities for students, we will strengthen our workforce and improve health care outcomes for all Coloradans.”
“Both rural and urban areas have felt the effects of our state’s shortage of nurses in hospitals,” said Sen. Donovan. “This bill will be a step towards providing hospitals with the staffing they need while saving people money on their education.”
In addition to expanding entry points, the bridge program would allow students to earn a BSN at a faster pace and save them thousands in tuition and fees. Through a dedicated pathway, LPNs can apply all their classroom credits and many of their clinical hours toward their bachelor’s degree.
“This law will boost Colorado’s health care workforce and build a healthier Colorado in the process,” said Rep. Mullica. “Getting more nurses from the classroom to the operating room will help ease some of the stress our health care workers have been facing. I’m proud of the work we’ve done to streamline the process for Coloradans to earn their BSN so we can get more talented, qualified nurses in the field.”
“Boosting our health care workforce is a top priority and this law paves the way,” said Rep. Exum. “Community colleges have always been leaders in preparing Colorado’s students for success and now they’ll be able to prepare the next generation of nurses with a BSN program. This is a great step towards addressing Colorado’s health care workforce shortage head on by saving Coloradans money on earning their nursing degree and getting more qualified nurses in hospitals.”
In the past year, Colorado has seen a 700% increase in demand for bachelors-prepared nurses. Industry partners like Kaiser Permanente encouraged an LPN to BSN pathway to train their current employees rather than hire traveling nurses or recruiting nurses from out of state.
The bill will also help diversify Colorado’s nursing workforce since LPN programs typically enroll more students of color and first-generation students.
“Having the opportunity to stay at Community College of Denver (CCD) to complete my RN, as well as a bachelor’s nursing degree, would mean everything to me,” said Christian, a CCD LPN student who testified in support of the bill. “Many people who are enrolled in my LPN program are non-traditional adult students like me–we have families and many responsibilities outside the classroom. Through an LPN to BSN bridge program, I could complete my degree while I work.”