Centra College offers a range of programs to fill critical jobs in the region

The nursing job field is projected to grow 7% by 2029 with an additional 176,000 nursing openings, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor of Statistics.

In an effort to fill that need in the middle of a nursing shortage, Centra College is educating around 300 students a year so they can obtain various nursing degrees and certifications.

Centra College, formerly Centra College of Nursing, currently offers four programs in the nursing field with the bulk—about 70%—in their associate’s degree program.
Heather Gable, dean of the college, said the name change is due to a future goal of expanding into other disciplines outside of nursing.

“We do offer a sort of a niche program in that we’re the only school in the area that offers the two-year nursing degree,” she said. “While we are a small school… that allows us that opportunity to develop relationships with the students, and still make them really part of a college community.”

Gable confirmed the country is still seeing a nursing shortage. She says nursing represents the largest segment of the healthcare workforce and infamously has a weak pipeline feeding that workforce.

“There is definitely a bit of a cycle because what happens is not only is there a nurse shortage, but we also have a nurse faculty shortage,” Gable said. “The average age of a nurse is roughly 50 and the average age of a nurse faculty member is about 60. So what ends up happening is you don’t have enough nurse faculty so then you can’t produce enough nurses.”

“There are so many different specialties that nurses can go into to become nurse practitioners and primary care providers,” Gable said. “You’ve got nurses going back to school, getting master’s degrees or getting more degrees, and not all nurses are necessarily staying at the bedside,” she explained. “Nursing is such a diverse discipline, that it’s not just the idea of having a nurse right there to bedside. Nurses are in so many aspects across the healthcare continuum.”

Gable sees students of all ages come to the college to get their degrees, but the average age is someone in their mid- to late-20s—but that doesn’t mean it’s their first time going to college, she said.

“We get individuals that have other associate’s degrees, might have other bachelor’s degrees, might even have other master’s degrees, and make the transition to nursing,” she said. “And I think oftentimes, when you are transitioning from maybe one career to another, or even go into nursing later in life, you want a pathway that’s going to help you get through it relatively quickly.”

This is why she believes the associate’s degree is the most popular with individuals who are thinking about transitioning into the program because it only lasts two years as opposed to schools that offer a four-year bachelor’s nursing program.

Gable said many of their students do work, but the college encourages them to work part-time.

“Especially with the practical nursing program and the associate’s degree program because they are intensive and it’s a rigorous program,” she said.

“They are full-time curriculum, they have classroom activities you have to complete, lab simulation, as well as your clinicals, so it is a very busy schedule.”

Classes are held Monday through Friday during the day with two clinicals per week. The college also offers about 10 different scholarships.

“The faculty here are so dedicated to their students’ success and the overall atmosphere, the culture. The environment is really focused on helping people who want to become nurses succeed in that role and getting them to that RN licensure or to that PN licensure, whatever program it may be, “Gable said. “We’re not really a traditional four-year school, but we still are creating that culture of a truly academic environment that is very supportive of students’ success.”