SLCC struggling to hire nursing educators

The inability to find nursing faculty has stalled the start of South Louisiana Community College’s new registered nursing program at least six months.

In August, the college announced it hoped to start classes by early spring, but it’s been difficult to fill two of the four full-time faculty positions, said Christine Payton, SLCC public relations director.

To allow time for curriculum development, the Louisiana Board of Nursing requires faculty to be in place at least six months before students are admitted, according to Laurie Fontenot, SLCC’s dean for nursing, allied health and safety.

Fontenot conducted interviews this week for one of the two open positions, Payton said.

“Attracting the faculty has been a process,” Payton said. “They can earn a better wage being a nurse, rather than teaching nursing.”

Pay is only one factor.

The requirements for the program set by the state nursing board disqualified some interested candidates, Fontenot said.

The job requirements include: a master’s degree in nursing, recent clinical experience and experience in education and curriculum development.

She said many candidates who were interested in the position may have had a master’s degree but in a discipline other than nursing or may have not met other requirements.

Payton said Fontenot, who holds a master’s degree in nursing, plans to ask the Louisiana Board of Nursing to allow her to also serve as a faculty member in the new program to expedite the start of classes.

Chancellor Natalie Harder has committed to starting the classes as soon as the nursing board gives clearance — even if it’s mid-semester, Payton said.

The program will admit 40 students then grow to enroll 60 students in each starting class.

Payton said interested students have been encouraged to complete general education courses as they await the opportunity to apply for one of the 40 spots in the program.

Program graduates will receive an associate’s degree in nursing and qualify to sit for the registered nurse licensing exam.

The college also is working on one-year, fast-track bachelor degree options for graduates to continue their education at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette or at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches.

Payton said future plans for the program also involve creating fast-track curriculum for licensed practical nurses and possibly paramedics.

In August, the college announced $500,000 in donations from Lafayette’s major hospitals and the Lafayette Economic Development Authority to be used for faculty salaries and equipment.

Work is underway to create a learning lab for the new program in the college’s former barber training area.

The barbering program ended last year due to low completion, and its wash stations and barber chairs will be replaced to create hospital room settings with computer-programmable patient simulators.

The new lab space will have an observation room for nurse faculty to observe students through a one-way glass.

In the next few years, the program will move into a new health and sciences building planned for the SLCC Lafayette campus. Construction of the 83,000-square-foot building is planned to begin in 2015.