Ohio University-Chillicothe and Adena Health System Collaborate to Triage Ohio’s Nursing Shortage

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Adena Health System, a medical services provider tracing its roots to a small brick house in Chillicothe, continues to expand its reach throughout southern Ohio. It now serves patients in 12 counties and employs more than 2,500 people at three hospitals and five regional clinics, making it one of the region’s largest employers. 

Providing high-quality healthcare for more than 400,000 people throughout the region requires a steady influx of trained nurses, but Adena faces the same challenge as other medical service providers nationwide—nurses are in critically short supply. According to data from the Center on Education and the Workforce, the United States will face a shortfall of 193,000 nursing professionals by the year 2020. Ohio’s own nursing shortage is driven by a number of factors – a large percentage of older nurses reaching retirement age, an aging population in general, and an increase in patients obtaining health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.

To help address the local nursing shortage, and to create new paths to well-paying jobs in a region that has struggled economically, Adena worked with state, federal, and local officials to open the state-of-the-art PACCAR Medical Education Center in 2008. Initially partnering with Wright State University, PACCAR has rapidly become the primary hub of medical education in the region.  

More recently, the nearby Chillicothe regional campus of Ohio University (OU-C) has become the primary higher education partner offering classes at PACCAR, beginning with an accelerated nursing curriculum designed for students who already have a degree in a different field, but are looking to change careers. 

 “An accelerated student can earn a degree in as little as a year and a half (including summer classes), depending on the number of pre-nursing classes the student has completed in their previous degree,” said Judith Henson, Adena Health System’s chief nursing officer. 

A new Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree program, which typically takes four years to complete, will graduate its first class in the spring of 2016. 

The partnership has been beneficial to both Adena and OU-C, and in turn has had a positive impact on the local workforce and economy. Many OU-C nursing students complete internships at Adena facilities and are later hired after graduation. 

“Roughly 30 percent of our workforce received their primary nursing degree from OU-C,” Henson said. “Our previous partnership with WSU and current partnership with OU-C have helped us avoid a shortage.”

The symbiotic relationship between OU-C and Adena goes both ways. 

“Many Adena employees, specifically nurses, also serve as clinical instructors to the OU-C students,” Henson said.

Martin Tuck, OU-C dean, said, “Most of our students that get a degree in the region want to stay in the region. That’s one of the reasons they come here.” 

Tuck added that many students entering the OU-C nursing program are older than 25, married, and have deep roots in southern Ohio. 

The ties between OU-C and Adena continue to deepen, as well, as OU-C students in a growing number of career fields – including health administration and information technology – participate in internships at Adena facilities.

“We’re rowing the boat in the same direction,” Tuck said. “Adena helps us provide a great educational product to our students, and then our graduates go on to work for their organization.”