November 30, 2021

Deal to boost nursing

Cortland Regional Medical Center to help expand TC3 program

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Tompkins Cortland Community College nursing graduates Megan O’Gorman, right, and Melanie Phillips are registered nurses on the Cortland Regional Medical Center maternity ward.

On his clinical rotations as a nursing student at Tompkins Cortland Community College, Vasyl Androshchuk has seen times when a nurse is tending to seven patients instead of the recommended four.

That affects care, he said, and it’s due to a local and national nursing shortage that a new partnership between TC3 and Cortland Regional Medical Center aims to address.

College and hospital officials announced a partnership Friday that will allow the college to accept 20 more students into its nursing program starting in 2020. The new program will allow registered nursing students to graduate in December and also allow students to do their hospital rotations in evening shifts.

The partnership won’t affect Androshchuk, who graduates in May, but he expects it will benefit many.

“There are people who work in the mornings and have kids,” he said. “I can see how it benefits them.”

The partnership was the brainchild of college President Orinthia Montague who heard about the ongoing need for nurses shortly after she took office in 2017 and visited with community agencies exploring possible partnerships.

“One of the loudest and strongest voices I heard came from the medical community,” Montague said. “They love our nurses, but they want more.”

Then came the financial hurdle: It’s expensive to run a nursing program.

That’s when the hospital stepped up. The financial investment came from its new affiliation with Guthrie Medical Group and really makes the expansion possible, Montague said.

The hospital will pay $456,000 to the college over five years. This will fund additional nursing faculty needed for the program: one full-time and two adjunct faculty members, starting in January 2020.

When the evening program is running, the college will have a total of 150 students.

Students will have to have their general education requirements completed before starting the two-year nursing program, said college officials, and if they do not then the program will take three years.

Cortland Regional Medical Center CEO Mark Webster said by the third year of the program, the hospital may start getting a sense of how the partnership is working, but he said the hospital thought a five-year commitment was a good start.

Kim Sharpe, chairwoman of TC3’s nursing program, said the college’s nursing program already receives far more applicants than it can accept, so the partnership help fills a twofold need: both for students looking to become nurses and hospitals looking to hire them.

Webster hopes that up to 80 percent of those who graduate the program will go on to be employed by Cortland Regional Medical Center, which will by then be Guthrie Cortland Medical Center.

This would reduce the college’s reliance on contracting with nursing agencies to fill the void, which Mary Wright, the hospital’s vice president of nursing services, said is expensive.

If the hospital is able to hire nursing students directly out of its nursing program, and retain those nurses, it could save the approximately $80,000 a year pernurse cost of turnover.

Students like Androshchuk are in high demand. And he says he is definitely preparing to apply.

“The fact that you get rotations at Cortland Regional and you get to meet the staff, me personally I do want to work there,” he said.