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MTI sees growing interest for future LPN program, begins expansion plans

A high interest in Mitchell Technical Institute's new nursing program already has the school looking ahead at how to expand. MTI plans to debut a Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) program beginning in August 2017, and even though the new year hasn...

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A high interest in Mitchell Technical Institute's new nursing program already has the school looking ahead at how to expand.

MTI plans to debut a Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) program beginning in August 2017, and even though the new year hasn't rung in yet, there's already a strong interest in the program.

According to Dean of Academics Carol Grode-Hanks, 88 people have already applied for the LPN program, and an additional 26 have actively inquired the program.

But there's one problem - the program can only accept 32 students.

The one-year LPN program will include nursing and general education courses, along with skills labs and clinical simulation experiences. Students will also participate in clinical learning experiences in various healthcare settings in area communities and in simulated clinical experiences.

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The first cohort will allow for 32 students, under advisement from Carena Jarding, the director of nursing, and two other full-time staff. So the first 32 to apply and meet the standards, will be accepted, Jarding said.

But the high number of applicants does not come as a shock to Mitchell Tech officials.

"In the years prior to this, it was the number-one requested program in the area and we've had a lot of employers also call and ask if we have an (LPN) program," said Clayton Deuter, the dean of enrollment services. "So it's a little surprising because we haven't done a lot of advertising yet, but we did know there was going to be a large number of students interested in the program."

The LPN program will join seven other health science programs at Mitchell Tech, with the most closely-related program being medical assisting, Grode-Hanks said.

And even though the program is still months from its start date, MTI officials are already looking at expanding the program and allowing for more students to be accepted. To do this, they first must get approval from the South Dakota Board of Nursing, which requires the program to be in place for two years and meet standards of a 75 percent passing rate for graduates.

As director, Jarding said she will work to make sure the program is where it needs to be and as strong as it can be until the two-year mark approaches. After that, the school may look at having two different start dates for the program, allowing for more students to be accepted.

For now, the institute has the 88 applicants in a holding stage until the February meeting with the SD Board of Nursing. At this meeting, the group will be granted an interim status, thus allowing the school to process the applications and begin accepting students into the LPN program.

And the school already has renovation plans in the works for the LPN program.

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According to Julie Brookbank, associate to the president, the program requires some dedicated classrooms and labs, and officials have already been working with contractors designing and laying out what these spaces may look like. This includes plans of a nursing suite located in the institute's Campus Center, which will also have instructional offices, according to Brookbank.

"It's an exciting time," Brookbank said.

Meeting workforce needs

When MTI first approached the SD Board of Nursing about starting the LPN program, Jarding said the board was thrilled.

Throughout the state there are far more students applying for LPN programs than being accepted, Jarding said. With the new program, MTI hopes to "fill that gap," Jarding said.

To fill this need, some research was required. And according to Brookbank, MTI did just that, looking into the area and state's workforce needs.

"For several years now we've had conversations with those in the health care industry who are really crying out for the licensed practical nurse in a lot of different levels," Brookbank said. "It might be hospital-based, but a lot of times it's a long-term care facility who needs those types of staffers or it might be rural clinics. There's just a lot of different places they can find employment."

And even though the program requires approval from the state nursing board before expanding and accepting more students, Brookbank and Jarding said they are confident it will see approval.

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"We know for a few years there's going to be a really big demand, so we're pretty confident that the workforce will be there to absorb the graduates of this program," Brookbank said.

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