As North Texas faces a shortage of nurses and other health care professionals, Collin College has continued to expand opportunities for area students to help fill that need.

What’s happening

When Collin College Director of Nursing Amy Wilson met with area health care partners, prior to last fall semester, they expressed a need for more nurses.

According to a 2022 report from the Texas Department of State Health Services, North Texas had the highest vacancy rates for registered nurses, 35.2%, in the state. That vacancy rate for registered nurses was up from 16.9% in 2019.

Collin College responded by increasing its admission from 90-to-120 students per semester in its LVN-to-RN bridge program, which provides a path for licensed vocational nurses to become registered nurses.

“Over the course of the last year, we’ve had an additional 100 students placed in nursing programs,” Wilson said. “That’s completely on the demand of our community.”

What else

Wilson said that nursing shortages can be chalked up to several factors, including burnout during the Wilson said that nursing shortages can be chalked up to several factors, including COVID burnout and a lack of nursing educators.

“The biggest issue is that there's just not enough educators and clinical placements to get enough nursing into the workforce,” she said.

She added that Collin College has been able to maintain enough educators to support its fast-growing nursing program, along with the addition of other “non-traditional” teaching methods—such as virtual reality.

The healthcare shortages extend beyond nursing; 64% of hospitals had reduced services due to staffing shortages, according to a 2023 report from the Texas Hospital Association.

Michelle Millen, Collin College’s dean of academic affairs for health sciences, said Collin College works with area hospitals and high schools to create a pipeline to get students into the health care field, and then trained further once they are employed.

“If an employer is interested in paying a current employee's tuition, we can develop those kinds of partnerships,” Millen said.

What’s next

Millen said the college is “always looking” at new growth opportunities to expand its healthcare offerings.

The most recent addition is the Clinical Operations Management program, which launched last fall, and is Collin College’s second healthcare related bachelor’s program, joining nursing.

Future areas of growth could include medical and cath lab technician programs, Millen said, adding that identifying areas of growth requires an “understanding of the marketplace.”

“We have to be sensitive to the needs of our community partners, and we have to focus on Collin County,” she said.

Millen added that the combination of affordability and quality education has allowed Collin College to continue growing its health sciences operation.

“With many of our programs, the reputation of the department precedes those students,” Millen said. “When we launch a new program our clinical sites may take a few students. Then when they see the quality, they say, ‘How many can we get?’”