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U. of Montana to Bolster the Big Sky Country's Nursing Workforce

Analysis  |  By Carol Davis  
   July 28, 2023

A $3.6M federal grant will upskill LPNs to RNs.

The University of Montana (UM) in Missoula will create an online, accelerated model to upskill licensed practical nurses (LPNs) to become RNs with the aid of a $3.6 million federal grant from the Health Resource and Service Administration.

Collaborating with rural communities, which particularly struggle with staffing issues, is a major focus of the grant.

"Rural Montana is particularly feeling the effects of this [nursing] shortage," said Lily Apedaile, director of the Office of Health Research & Partnership, one of three UM organizations that will implement the new training program. "This new nurse training program developed at Missoula College will create a pathway for licensed practical nurses in Montana to quickly upskill to become registered nurses."

"We see this program as a key part of addressing the nursing shortage by developing a needed step in the nursing career pathway," she said.

The two other UM organizations implementing the new program are the Missoula College Nursing Program and the Center for Children, Families, and Workforce Development.

The new LPN-to-RN Bridge Program will develop assessments to grant credit for experience LPNs have gained in their current role, which will allow them to bypass certain courses, Apedaile said.

It also will focus on public health nursing and health equity in Montana, both of which are emerging areas of need in the largely rural state. A key component of the program will be allowing LPNs to do their classroom instruction through an online platform while continuing to complete clinical training in their own community.

"The Missoula College Nursing Program is excited to be able to offer a pathway for rural LPNs to achieve RN status in a short period of time while working in their communities," said Linda Barnes, Missoula College Nursing Program director. "This grant will help to change the lives of many working nurses who are unable to travel long distances for continued education."

The funding also will support RNs at partner facilities to serve as clinical instructors for LPN students. These RN preceptors will receive specialized training to strengthen the nursing education workforce.

The LPN-to-RN Bridge Program will partner with rural Montana healthcare facilities to aid their efforts in designing career pathways for employees.

"This program will be an important part of recruitment and retention of nurses in rural communities by allowing existing LPNs to stay and train in their hometowns while also increasing the number of nurse educators in rural Montana," Apedaile said.

The application process for the new program is expected to open in spring 2024, with the first cohort of nursing students starting in summer 2024.

Carol Davis is the Nursing Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.


The online, accelerated program will upskill LPNs to become RNs.

Boosting RNs in rural communities is a major focus of the grant.

The program allows LPNs to stay and train in their own communities.

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