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Hospitals will pay nursing tuition

8 hospitals will pay nursing students' bills at PHCC


© St. Petersburg Times, published January 18, 2001

NEW PORT RICHEY -- Eight area hospitals have agreed to support a new Pasco-Hernando Community College nursing program that will allow students to get nursing degrees for free, school President Robert Judson said.

The hospitals will foot the students' $3,500 annual bill and, in return, the students must agree to work two years after graduation at their sponsoring hospital.

"It's going to add total nurses to the market, and that's what needs to happen right now," said Paul Norman, the president and chief executive officer of East Pasco Medical Center, which became the last hospital to join the program on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the college board of trustees addressed the creation and expansion of two other PHCC programs. It approved the school's first credit classes in sign language and supported a grant application to nearly double the school's corrections officer training program.

The expanded licensed practical nurse program will begin this fall, Judson said. The registered nurse program will begin in January 2002.

The program will allow students to attend classes at night and on the weekends, he said. They will be able to receive licensed practical nurse certification in a year and upgrade to a registered nurse in another year.

In order to join the nursing program, each hospital will pay about $52,000, plus the costs of student tuition, fees and books, Judson said. Each hospital will be able to fund 25 students.

The college will spend $150,000 by March to purchase a mannequinlike device that can simulate almost any human ailment. It will also spend $210,000 to hire additional staff, Judson said.

The eight hospitals involved are East Pasco in Zephyrhills, Community Hospital of New Port Richey, North Bay Medical Center in New Port Richey, Oak Hill Hospital in Spring Hill, Regional Medical Center at Bayonet Point, Brooksville and Spring Hill regional hospitals, and Pasco Regional Medical Center in Dade City.

Brooksville and Spring Hill regional hospitals are joining as a partnership.

A study by the Florida Hospital Association found that 14.7 percent of nursing positions in western Florida, including Pasco, are open. Statewide 11.3 percent of RN positions are open. Recruiting and training of a new nurse costs about $35,000 to $40,000, hospital administrators said.

The school's three levels of sign language classes will also begin this fall, said Paul Szuch, vice president of educational services.

More students were requesting sign language to fulfill the foreign language requirement of state universities. The school is looking to expand its corrections officer training program this fall as well, Judson said. The board approved a request for $200,000 from the state. He said the money would allow the school to expand its program at Gowers Corner to 60 students from about 30.

Starting this fall the school will take on the training of state corrections officers, Judson said. It currently trains officers for local jails.

In other news from Tuesday's meeting, Sharon Taylor, a Hernando lawyer, indicated that she is not interested in being reappointed to the board of trustees this spring. She wants to spend more time doing church and family activities.

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