UIC, UIS, Memorial Health System Partnership Aiming to Fix Nursing Shortage

University of Illinois at Chicago is offering a nursing program through a satellite campus at UIS with Memorial Health System offering training for the students. (WICS)

A partnership between University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Illinois at Springfield and Memorial Health System is aiming to fix a local nursing shortage.

We're told there are hundreds of nurses needed in central Illinois hospitals and their importance cannot be overlooked.

Nurses are the unsung heroes of the hospital. They provide 90 percent of patients’ needs.

“They're the eyes and ears of the rest of the care team at the bedside each and every day,” said Marsha Prater, the chief nursing officer at Memorial Health System.

Prater said patient falls and infections drop significantly when you have more nurses.

The problem, nationwide and locally, is there just aren't enough.

“We could hire 50 nurses today and we'd still have opportunities for more of them,” said Prater.

The need is growing with more people using health care.

“The nurses that are working are taking care of more patients than would be optimal,” said Cindy Reese, the regional director of the Springfield campus for UIC College of Nursing.

Reese said it’s a quality of care issue.

University of Illinois at Chicago has an established nursing program with a couple hundred students on campuses in Chicago and Urbana.

They're now offering a satellite campus at UIS with Memorial Health System offering training for the students.

“Really thankful that a nursing program came here to Springfield that way we can get some of these local nursing students into these hospitals,” said Elizabeth Olejniczak, a Springfield native and current UIC nursing student.

The hope is to keep these students locally when they graduate. Experts say nursing students tend to work within 50 miles from where they train. In this case that’s Springfield.

“As soon as I graduate I want to stay here for a couple years,” said Olejniczak, a junior.

The first 15 students started this fall. The hope is to grow to 64 in a couple years.

“The higher quality of your nursing staff, the more nurses you have, the better outcomes that your patients achieve,” said Prater.

For the UIC nursing program, you can apply as a freshman or as a junior after taking necessary pre-nursing courses at another college, such as UIS.

The nursing program itself is two years.

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