Muhlenberg creates affiliation with Villanova nursing program

Muhlenberg College students will have a clearer path to pursue a nursing degree thanks to a new affiliation the Allentown school has established with Villanova University’s College of Nursing. 

Prehealth students at Muhlenberg will be able to transition to Villanova’s Second Degree Accelerated BSN Program for college graduates.  

Muhlenberg students can pursue either the full-time 14-month Express Degree Program or the 23-month Flex Degree Program. Both incorporate all of the standard components of Villanova’s nursing program in a concentrated timeframe. Villanova has agreed to accept at least five Muhlenberg students each year.  

“Prehealth has long been an exceptionally robust program at Muhlenberg,” said President Kathleen Harring. “Our students acquire strong critical thinking, problem-solving and communication skills, which make them valued candidates for these vitally important fields. We take seriously our commitment to guide each of our students as they move toward their personalized career goals. This new agreement with Villanova Nursing offers an excellent opportunity for our students interested in this essential profession.” 

To be accepted in the Villanova program, students must first obtain a four-year undergraduate degree at Muhlenberg, take all the prerequisite courses and meet admission requirements for the Villanova BSN program.  

The Fitzpatrick College of Nursing at Villanova is approved by the State Board of Nursing. Upon completion of the undergraduate program, graduates are eligible to take the licensing examination (NCLEX) for professional registered nurses. The bachelor’s degree program in nursing is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, as are the master’s degree program in nursing, Doctor of Nursing Practice program and post-graduate APRN certificate program. 

This is Muhlenberg’s second academic partnership with Villanova University, following the 2019 agreement with the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. The college now offers 16 such programs in the fields of health, public health, business and finance, engineering and law. 

PASSHE addresses ‘critical’ teacher shortage

The plight of Pennsylvania’s workforce shortage has hit the education sector particularly hard. 

A press release by Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) states that the number of new certified teachers in the state since 2011 dropped by nearly 67%. In 2020-21, Pennsylvania issued more emergency teaching permits than new teacher certifications. 

As job growth in the Pre-K to 12 education field is expected to be 6% by 2030, more than 10,000 additional educators and teachers will be needed than Pennsylvania currently has. A shortage of new teachers can leave public and private schools with fewer candidates to fill jobs. Additionally, students may be left without a regular teacher as shortages in educators can also cause larger class sizes and require other school staff to fill in.  

PASSHE said it is addressing the teacher shortage by seeking $112 million in state funding to produce more graduates in six in-demand, high-growth jobs, including education. PASSHE would use $56.5 million to provide direct financial relief to education students, saving each student an average of $1,500. High-need students could receive an additional $5,000, for a total of $6,500 per year. 

PASSHE discovered shortly before its recent House Appropriations Committee hearing that its description of the funding request was confusing to some legislators. To reduce confusion, it has changed slightly how it describes its request. 

To clarify, PASSHE is seeking the $112 million in state funding, mostly for financial aid, to enable more students to afford the education necessary for six targeted careers with worker shortages. This combined with a 3.8% ($21 million) inflationary increase in base funding would enable PASSHE’s Board of Governors to consider freezing tuition for an unprecedented fifth consecutive year. 

By making a degree more affordable, PASSHE expects more Pennsylvanians will be encouraged to pursue careers in the teaching profession. 

Along with teaching, the careers targeted by PASSHE are nursing, social services, business, and the STEM fields of engineering and computer science.

PA Chamber examines Shapiro’s strategy to rebuild workforce

Gov. Josh Shapiro has been touring Pennsylvania speaking of his proposals to restore the state’s flagging workforce. An effort that may not be looking enough at the big picture, according to the PA Chamber of Business and Industry. 

Jon Anzur, vice president of public affairs for the PA Chamber, noted that Pennsylvania businesses of every size and industry are dealing with a workforce shortage that predates the pandemic but was intensified by COVID-19. 

“Even before COVID, businesses were struggling with the worker shortage, but the pandemic really exacerbated this challenge,” said Anzur. “So many workers left Pennsylvania to go to another state to find opportunities or just left the workforce entirely. Employers as a result are struggling to find qualified workers. 

“You’re seeing Pennsylvania largely starting to recover the jobs that were lost during the pandemic. The challenge, though, is that Pennsylvania lagged the rest of the nation by six months to fully recover those jobs and our workforce today is smaller than it was pre-pandemic.” 

In the two-plus weeks following Shapiro’s first budget address, the governor has crisscrossed the state discussing his budget’s “commonsense” proposals to rebuild Pennsylvania’s workforce.  

Shapiro’s tour has taken him to Lancaster City to speak to local firefighters, to the Pennsylvania Police Academy in Hershey, the George Washington Carver High School of Engineering and Science in Philadelphia, Lackawanna College Police Academy in Scranton, Gwynedd Mercy University, Colfax K-8 Elementary School in Pittsburgh, and Mercyhurst Municipal Police Academy in Erie. 

A common thread to all the above is Shapiro’s desire to hear firsthand the challenges facing nurses, police, and teachers, three professions that have been hit particularly hard by a decreased workforce. 

Anzur said that while the PA Chamber appreciates the governor focusing on the workforce issue, he thinks the chamber would encourage lawmakers to focus on policies that would improve workforce development across all sectors. 

“From our perspective, job training and investing in proven job training and career and technical job training programs would help individuals develop the skills they need for the jobs that are available,” Anzur stated. “We talk to employers in manufacturing, in technology and innovation, in health care and they have jobs that are available. They just can’t find the workers who have the skills necessary for those careers.” 

“Investing in different educational programs and job training, and re-training of workers for these available jobs would go a long way,” he added. 

Lack of affordable health care is another challenge the chamber sees as exacerbating the worker shortage. 

“This is really a multi-pronged issue,” said Anzur. “We see younger families struggling to afford childcare and it’s leading to one of the adults in the family to leave the workforce to stay home with the kids. This is something we really think the private sector is responsible for driving solutions.” 

To that point, Anzur said the chamber is seeing Pennsylvania’s employers taking up the task of addressing the crucial childcare issue in various ways. Employers are assessing their employee’s needs to determine what working parents need from their employers, what their flexibility is in the business, and if they can provide hybrid work schedules and work from home. 

“Implementing these sorts of strategies and tracking the impact is something we’re seeing from our members and businesses across Pennsylvania, and I think it’s starting to have a positive impact,” said Anzur. “Figuring out that childcare piece will go a long way to getting adults back into the workforce.” 

Viewing the workforce shortage from a macro-economic perspective, Anzur said that as Pennsylvania’s tax and regulatory environment improves, so will investment into the state. That means more economic growth, which would have a positive impact on wages and bring Pennsylvanians back into the workforce and keep them in state. 

“With the pandemic, we saw tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians leaving the state to go other places for opportunities,” said Anzur. “As businesses are able to save on costs as the result of tax and regulatory reform, they will be able to invest more of that money back into the workforce. That’s going to lift wages and lead to more Pennsylvanians seeking employment here.” 

An additional key factor in rebuilding the state’s workforce focuses on continuing the phase down of the corporate net income tax from its current 8.99% to 8.49% later this year and eventually down to 4.99% by 2031. 

Permitting reform is another issue Shapiro has been speaking to, and Anzur noted that Republicans in the Pennsylvania Senate have introduced legislation to streamline and speed up the permitting process. 

“That’s a process that costs businesses millions of dollars annually here in Pennsylvania,” said Anzur. “As businesses save on those costs and are able to reinvest that money back into their workforce, I think you’ll see a positive impact of people coming back into the labor force here in Pennsylvania.” 

Workforce shortages rank among the biggest challenges facing Pennsylvania residents, and Shapiro has proposed incentivizing the nursing, police, and teaching professions with a three-year tax credit of up to $2,500 per year for new recruits. 

Anzur said the PA Chamber agrees with the governor’s prioritizing the labor shortage, and at the same time is taking a big picture view of the crisis. 

“From our perspective,” said Anzur, “while we share the governor’s concern and focus on strengthening Pennsylvania’s workforce, we’re looking at a more macro approach to addressing this issue that will impact positively Pennsylvania’s workforce across all sectors – job training, childcare, and improving our tax and reg environment.”

The key to creating more nurses is keeping more nurses

The nursing shortage being felt across the nation has propelled many Pennsylvania healthcare systems to give nurses’ aides more access to training with local community colleges and universities. Expanding these opportunities is certainly a positive step and must be matched with other strategies. 

A report from the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP) confirms a steady increase in nursing turnover and job vacancies. Registered nurses are more likely than other professionals to switch jobs and less likely to be employed at their primary work location for more than two years. The report, which is based on a survey of Pennsylvania hospitals, found that the vacancy rate for registered nurses was 27% in 2021, a 6% increase since 2019. Additionally, the turnover rate increased between 3%-6% for the various categories of nurses over the same time period. 

Of course, Pennsylvania is not alone. In a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Bacerra, American Nurses Association president Dr. Ernest Grant called the nursing shortage a “national crisis,” detailing sweeping shortages and turnover rates across the country.  

According to a 2021 study on the U.S healthcare labor market, if current trends persist, Pennsylvania will have a healthcare worker shortage of nearly 300,000, including over 20,000 nurses. 

To ensure the proper standard of care is being met for patients, healthcare providers must prioritize continuing nursing education and creating opportunities for career growth. Making an investment in the nurses they have today will help retain talent and strengthen their future labor force for tomorrow.   

The nursing shortage has prompted a rise in providers hiring travel nurses to assure standards of care for their patients. This strategy comes at a high cost, with travel professionals earning a national average of $2,034 a week. In Pennsylvania, this is up to $3,359 a week, enticing much of the incoming workforce to travel, leaving their neighborhood hospitals understaffed. Seeing this pay disparity can be discouraging for the remaining clinical staff, prompting experienced nurses to retire early or seek alternative careers. This results in the loss of valuable thought leadership and expertise that could otherwise be passed on to the next generation of nurses. Local schools with licensing programs then have a tough time, due to their need for practicing nurses to serve as part-time clinical faculty.  

We need to change this pattern by making sure talent is supported on a continuous learning and growth journey, helping more nurses reach their professional goals at their current workplace.  

The master’s degrees and post-master’s certificates in leadership and management at online institutions like Western Governors University allow working nurses to advance their career journeys in their workplace instead of leaving the industry entirely. Years in the field give many the advantage of completing courses at a faster rate with a flexible virtual classroom setting and a competency-based model. Furthering their knowledge by obtaining an MSN or certificate in nursing education also opens the door for them to become instructors for incoming nurses. 

Healthcare administrators must focus as much of their energy on talent retention and giving nurses a career pathway with upward mobility as they do on recruitment. This strategy will demonstrate that professional nursing is a career path that provides opportunities for continued growth, learning, and leadership. 

Rebecca L. Watts, Ph.D., serves as a regional vice president for Western Governors University (WGU), a nonprofit, accredited university focused on competency-based learning that serves more than 2,800 students and 5,800 graduates in Pennsylvania. She holds a doctorate in higher education leadership from Ohio University, and degrees in communication, including a master’s degree from the University of Illinois at Springfield, a bachelor’s degree from Sangamon State University, Ill., and an associate degree from Lincoln Land Community College, Ill. 


New jobs, higher pay, career advancement are aims of new PASSHE registry

Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) is creating the state’s first credential registry to help prepare students of all ages for in-demand careers and strengthen the workforce. 

The project is funded by Pennsylvania’s Department of Labor & Industry and American Rescue Plan funds appropriated by PASSHE. 

Initially, the State System’s credential registry will include in-demand programs such as business, computer science, education, engineering, nursing, and social services. The first phase of the credential registry is anticipated to be ready in 2024.  

A press release from PASSHE stated the on-line tool is user-friendly and will aid students and workers in navigating education and professional credentials. Users will be enabled to make informed decisions regarding their opportunities. 

The credential registry can be used by the public to learn which credentials exist, where to obtain them and in what order, and which skills employers seek for jobs in high demand. The registry will explain which credentials are sequenced, possibly leading to a bachelor’s degree and beyond. 

PASSHE Chancellor Dan Greenstein said the State System is redesigning itself to meet the needs of learners and provide a pipeline of talented individuals that employers are seeking. He added that the credential registry is a key part of the process. 

“Credentials add value to your resume by demonstrating to employers that you have the education and latest skills to do the job,” said Greenstein in a statement. “Students and job seekers will be able to use the credential registry to understand the pathways to earn credentials that open doors to new and higher-paying jobs.” 

The State System is partnering with the non-profit Credential Engine in creating the online credential registry.

“Pennsylvania’s design for this work is exemplary,” said Scott Cheney, CEO of Credential Engine. “Focusing on quality, stackability and pathways will help students and workers be better able to navigate their way through all types and levels of credentials to the skills needed by employers. Having all that information in an open credential registry is an important first step.”

A credential registry will be an important tool to address the labor shortage. Currently, 60% of Pennsylvania jobs require higher education, yet only 51% of workers have education after high school. Helping the state’s workforce earn credentials can close the talent gap, and credentials such as badges, certificates, licenses, apprenticeships and industry certifications can be earned as two- or four-year State System academic programs.  

Credentials can be earned at the learner’s pace. In short-term programs, learners can enter higher education, earn a credential while working and go on to the next credential or leave higher education for the workforce. They can return to the program to earn advanced credentials to build skills to advance their career or earn a higher income. 

The State System is expanding credentialing within academic courses so students can earn credentials on route to their degree. The online registry’s largest benefit may go to working adults, especially those with some college and no credential, or those in entry-level positions who need to improve their skills to keep up with automation and technology. 

In a press release issued by PASSHE, a Pennsylvania-specific registry enables employers to identify the credentials most relevant to their hiring needs. 

Alvernia nursing program moved, renamed in honor of donor

Alvernia announces its nursing programs will now be housed in the John and Karen Arnold School of Nursing during a celebration with university leaders, trustees, faculty, staff and nursing students on Tuesday afternoon. PHOTO/COURTESY ALVERNIA UNIVERSITY –

Alvernia University in Reading is moving and renaming its school of nursing. 

Nursing programs will now be offered in the John and Karen Arnold School of Nursing and will be located at the newly named John R. Post Center at Reading CollegeTowne. 

The naming of the nursing school is in recognition of the university’s largest philanthropic gift by a trustee in Alvernia’s 64-year history. 

The donation from the business leaders and philanthropists will support the expansion of the nursing program, which the school described as a key component of the second phase of the CollegeTowne renovation. 

“I would like to acknowledge the incredible generosity of the Arnold family, whose leadership in addressing the needs of our community and support of our vision for the City of Reading, Berks County and beyond will benefit generations of future students and residents,” said Alvernia University President John R. Loyack.  

“We are ecstatic to begin the second phase of renovation to the John R. Post Center to meet the demands for qualified healthcare professionals in our region and continue to ignite economic redevelopment in downtown Reading.”  

The project will add over 25,000 square feet of classroom and lab space, including a new Healthcare Simulation Center. 

 The state-of-the-art simulation facilities will enhance Alvernia’s accredited professional undergraduate and graduate nursing degree programs.  

“Karen and I are excited to support Alvernia University’s Reading CollegeTowne Initiative and the expansion of the School of Nursing,” said Arnold. “Reading CollegeTowne is having a transformational impact on the City of Reading, and the expansion of the School of Nursing, and the new facility in Reading CollegeTowne, will assist in meeting workforce development needs of the local healthcare organizations in our community now and well into the future.”  

Relocating the nursing programs will help expand the program’s capacity and allow for the graduation of additional new RNs entering the region in various healthcare settings.  



Nursing candidates get temporary practice permits more quickly

Improvements to Pennsylvania’s nurse licensing process will allow new nursing school graduates to more quickly obtain a temporary practice permit as they study for their nursing exams, the state recently announced.

Temporary practice permits allow graduates of the commonwealth’s nursing schools to begin their careers in health care while their applications for full initial licensure are processed by the State Board of Nursing. Full initial licensure requires approximately eight to 10 weeks, and TPPs allow nursing graduates to work in supervised settings while they get ready to take the National Council Licensure Examination, one of the most important requirements for registered nurse licensure.

“I am pleased to report that 570 nursing graduates who have been waiting for their TPPs have received them,” Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth Leigh M. Chapman said in a release. “This means they will be able to join the health care workforce under supervision and begin providing patients with needed care. We see this improvement as one way to help ease the nursing shortage across Pennsylvania.”

Previously, applicants’ criminal histories were reviewed before a temporary practice permit was issued. Now, board staff will grant a TPP upon confirmation of the applicant’s graduation from a Pennsylvania nursing school. Criminal history records will still be reviewed prior to a nursing license being issued.

Also, the processing time for TPPs has been reduced because of greater automation.

Chapman added: “This permanent change to the TPP approval process came about for multiple reasons, including the feedback we received from nursing schools, health care systems and other nurse employers, as well as from nursing applicants themselves.”