Pueblo Community College received accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education for its baccalaureate degree program in nursing at the end of May.
The CCNE found that PCC’s program met all accreditation standards and had no compliance concerns. The accreditation extends through June 30, 2028. PCC will submit a continuous improvement progress report at the midpoint of the accreditation term in 2025, a requirement for all CCNE-accredited programs.
There has been a strong emphasis on health care pathways in Southwest Colorado since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020. Fort Lewis College also recently began offering a four-year nursing degree program in 2023.
However, PCC’s accreditation makes it so those who are already working in the medical field after earning an associate degree or the college’s other medical pathways are able to earn their bachelor’s of science in nursing.
“The accreditation speaks to meeting a certain standard that's accepted across the industry and it shows that we're rigorous in our approach,” said Pueblo Community College Executive Dean Lisa Snyder.
The BSN program was already approved by the Higher Learning Commission, PCC’s accrediting body. PCC pursued the additional discipline-specific accreditation from the CCNE to ensure students were receiving a degree at the highest standards.
For Snyder and BSN coordinator Cleary Wunder, it was important the college seek out these accreditations to provide educational opportunities to residents without them having to relocate to attend school.
There are 13 students currently enrolled in Pueblo’s BSN program and the college is seeing more interest from students wanting to enter medical professions.
“Especially in these rural areas, an increase in nursing students, especially those who are bachelor prepared, that's helping meeting those needs and those gaps in health care,” Wunder said.
Snyder said cost of living and affordable housing are among the reasons why Southwest Colorado struggles to retain many of its health care workers. According to Region 9 Economic Development’s 2022 Livable Wage Report, health service employees have an average salary of $54,422 in La Plata County.
However, adding a BSN could improve the chances of a pay raise. Statistics from Zip Recruiter show that the average BSN nurse in Colorado makes roughly $74,841 per year.
But cost of living may not be the only reason that there has been a shortage of health care employees.
According to a 2022 report from the Colorado Rural Health Center, more than 4,500 registered nurses in the state are 65 and older. The report estimated that over the next 10 years, 2,000 nurses will retire annually. To meet the forecast population growth, the report estimates the state will need 3,300 new nurses annually.
PCC’s class is taken completely online and takes five semesters to finish. Wunder said the online classes are a benefit to those working while going to school, especially in the medical profession. It also provides students with families the flexibility to take the classes while taking care of their children.
“This accreditation is really important in order to be able to bring this as another option to folks in the area,” Snyder said. “We also bring this to Towaoc, the Ute Mountain Utes and the Southern Utes.”