nursing students pose for photo as bill passes

Photo caption: CCCS nursing students stand proudly with HB 18-1086 sponsors. Left to right: Rep. Buckner; Alan Favier, Front Range Community College; Jason Lalonde, Arapahoe Community College; Matthew Muramoto, Pueblo Community College; Rep. Lundeen.

HB18-1086, “Community College Bachelor Science Degree Nursing,” passed on a 12-1 vote out of the Colorado House of Representatives Health, Insurance and Environment committee on February 1.

“We greatly appreciate having had the opportunity for a thorough and forthright discussion of the merits of this legislation,” said System President Dr. Nancy McCallin. “Our colleges have made significant investments in state-of-the-art equipment and simulation labs to create robust nursing programs that can be scaled to offer four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees. Thus, this legislation provides a cost-effective way to expand the number of BSN nursing graduates in Colorado. Our colleges already educate and train high-quality registered nurses who greatly contribute to the health and well-being of their communities. Allowing us to offer BSN degrees in nursing is the smart thing to do to address the overwhelming shortage of bachelor-prepared nurses in Colorado.”

Three community college students testified in favor of the bill, noting that they all wish to pursue BSN degrees, but are concerned about cost and the significant logistical issues related to transferring to another school to continue their nursing education. “This legislation is important, not just for current nursing students, but for future generations that will benefit from local, affordable BSN programs,” said Matthew Muramoto, nursing student at Pueblo Community College. “It just makes sense to enable the community colleges to offer BSN degrees, especially when you consider how desperately Colorado needs BSN-prepared nurses!”

Bill sponsor Representative Janet Buckner thanked her colleagues on the Health, Insurance and Environment Committee for passing the bill, saying “I am very pleased that this legislation has moved out of committee on a very strong vote.” She added, “Nursing students come from a diverse range of socioeconomic backgrounds, and it’s important to me that we make sure they have an equally diverse range of opportunities to acquire additional training.”

The legislation seeks to address an imminent healthcare crisis in Colorado: an acute shortage of nursing professionals with Bachelors degrees. To help mitigate the shortage, the legislation would enable the 13 institutions that are part of the state system of community colleges to offer four-year BSN degrees.

At least 500 positions requiring a BSN degree go unfilled each year in Colorado, which will result in a cumulative shortage of 4,500 nurses with BSNs by 2024. Struggling to meet demand, local health care providers have been forced to “import” nurses from other states, raising the cost of Coloradan’s health care.

“I am a firm believer that market competition is essential to minimize costs and maximize benefits to Colorado’s health care consumers,” said bill sponsor Representative Paul Lundeen. “There’s a demand for nurses with BSN degrees, and we should let the market respond. This policy will help level the playing field, and ensure that Colorado’s nursing students have additional options for their education that are accessible and affordable.”