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Time to pack up the stethoscopes

As of fall quarter, 2004, some or all of Olympic College’s most popular department on campus, nursing, will move from Bremerton to Poulsbo.

According to the college’s president David Mitchell, the current dwellings are too cramped and the technology is outdated. Mitchell also maintains that the demand for the program is high enough to necessitate the transfer to a roomier location at Olympic College’s, Poulsbo campus, where more students can attend classes.

Currently, about 140 students are enrolled in the various nursing classes at OC, while just as many wait to get in the classes every year.

“We need to solve this problem immediately,” Mitchell said. “The only way to solve it within a year is to move some or all of the nursing program to the Poulsbo campus.”

Mitchell will not say how many more students the programs will accept, nor how much of the department will be moved.

There will still be a large nursing and health care presence at OC’s Bremerton campus, though rebuilding it may take years.

Eventually, Mitchell foresees a building on OC’s Bremerton campus specifically dedicated to nursing. In Poulsbo, the department will occupy an already existing building.

“If we build a new facility in the future, it is going to be in Bremerton,” he said.

It is part of the long range budgeting plan for the college, which will be finalized by December of 2003.

According to Mitchell, the only way to keep the nursing program in Bremerton is to begin massive renovations of the current building, but such an endeavor could take three to four years.

“We can’t wait,” Mitchell said. “My main goal is to expand the capacity for nursing now, and in the long run to improve the health care facilities here in Bremerton. I don’t want people to view it as abandoning Bremerton.”

Four programs in the health care field are currently offered at the Bremerton campus. The longest running of these is the Registered Nursing (RN) program. Founded in 1968, the two-year long program consists of 45 students enrolled for this school year.

Students are admitted through a complicated screening process. Only half who apply are accepted.

“That has been the trend over the last four years,” said Marge Herzog, the assistant dean of the nursing programs.

Those who do not make it into the program “literally have to delay their career goals,” Herzog said.

Other nursing related programs include the Practical Nursing (PN) program, a one year program started in 2001, and the Nursing Assistant program, (NA) a six- to eight-week program that was started in 1997 at the college. A Medical Office Assistant program, (MOA) has two years of curriculum and an average yearly enrollment of about 13 students.

A nurse herself since 1971, Herzog said that Kitsap County, like the rest of the country, is experiencing the worst shortage of nursing employees in the job market she has seen.

“Because of the publicity related to the shortages, we are seeing a demand increase” in the nursing programs at OC, she said. “There is such a high demand that students say they will travel anywhere to get it.”

She has found the mood amongst students is optimistic as well.

One kink in the Poulsbo campus plan is providing daycare for the students. A number of nursing students use the Bremerton campus’ on-site childcare facilities, which Poulsbo lacks.

“We need to identify what the resources are,” said Herzog.

The decision to move the campus was made by Mitchell. OC’s five member board of trustees was consulted on the matter several times, but they did not need to vote on it.

An immense amount of research on the matter was conducted by the North Kitsap/Poulsbo Community Advisory Committee, which talked to approximately 450 alumni, community members and students about the move. They also gave presentations at city council meetings, service clubs and chamber of commerce luncheons.

Mitchell will work in tandem with Herzog and other faculty in the coming six months to finalize the remaining details of the nursing department move.

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