"This is a very exciting partnership," said Kathy Berry, IVC's director of nursing and health technologies.
"Its purpose is to train RNs who are already RNs in the specialty areas," Berry said.
Currently, local hospitals must send their nurses out of the Valley for the specialty training, which is extremely expensive to the hospitals.
"We are going to be able to bring training to nurses here," Berry said.
Imperial County, like the rest of the state and nation, is experiencing an acute nursing shortage that is fast becoming critical. The Imperial Valley has fewer than 400 RNs per 100,000 population, compared to California's average of 700 RNs per 100,000 population, according to the grant documents.
The nursing shortage in Imperial County is most severe in high-risk, specialty areas. These areas require extensive specialty training and on-the-job experience not previously available through IVC's program.
To fill the gaps, registry or temporary staff must be contracted at a considerably higher cost to the hospitals. Rates can be double the cost of staff nurses. For fiscal 2000, the cost to El Centro and Brawley hospitals exceeded $2 million.
The two-year program will develop specialty courses varying in length from 15 to 36 weeks.
One unique aspect of the training is its use of preceptors, specialty nurses who will be working alongside the students.
Each course will consist of a classroom component and on-the-job training with a preceptor. All preceptors will have formal training.
"During the first year, it is anticipated that we will train 10 labor and delivery nurses and 10 intensive/critical care nurses," Berry said.
The project will train an additional 10 intensive/critical care and 10 emergency room nurses in the second year. Each of the enrollees will be a registered nurse employed or sponsored by either El Centro Regional or Pioneers.
The Imperial Valley Health Care Partnership was created by the two hospitals and IVC to develop local solutions to the nursing shortages. IVC has had a nurse-training program for 35 years and historically has supplied over 70 percent of the nursing work force within the county.
Each of the partners within the collaborative has agreed to commit matching resources for training. These resources can include personnel, classroom space and equipment.
"This is just one example of how IVC is partnering with the local community to develop training programs to fit the needs of local business," said IVC President Gilbert Dominguez.
"We are prepared to mobilize quickly to get the program up and operating this fall," Dominguez said.