The University of Northern Iowa announced Nov. 14 that Nancy Kertz will serve as Executive Director of Nursing and Chief Academic Nurse Administrator for the university’s new Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, which was approved Nov. 10 by the Iowa Board of Regents has been approved.

Kertz will bring 17 years of higher education leadership and nursing program development experience to UNI to help launch and direct their first nursing program. Most recently, she was vice president for academic affairs and provost at Mercy College of Health Sciences in Des Moines. Previously, she was Dean of Nursing at the college.

“The recording of Dr. Kertz to the UNI community represents a critical hire for our university as we seek to fill a vital need in the Iowa workforce,” said UNI President Mark Nook in a press release. “Research also shows that nursing is the most sought-after major among Iowa students pursuing a four-year degree. We believe UNI is uniquely positioned to provide the combination of real-world experience and curriculum necessary to serve our state’s students and residents.”

UNI plans to launch the program in Autumn 2024 with a cohort of approximately 24 students and projects growing to a full cohort of 96 students by the fourth year of the programme, per the new program proposal.

Pete Moris, UNI director of university relations, told Business Record in an interview that the university is launching the new program to deal with the “perfect storm” of an aging workforce in care, the fatigue of the coronavirus pandemic and the need for more Places to tackle universities to meet the need.

Registered nurses are Iowa’s largest employment need, according to long-term projections from Iowa Workforce Development. However, data from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing indicates that over 8,000 qualified applicants for nursing programs in the Midwest were denied admission last year.

Kertz, who is a certified family nurse, said in a news release that the national nursing shortage is worsening, affecting rural and urban areas in Iowa.

“The reality of having fewer nurses in the field comes with a responsibility to care for more patients,” Kertz said in the release. “Further strain on the already overburdened caregiver can lead to life-threatening situations and other adverse outcomes for patients.”

UNI will join the other Regent Universities and several private schools in the area to offer a Bachelor of Science program in Nursing. The goal of the UNI program is to complement existing nursing programs in Iowa by providing access to public school places for students pursuing a career in nursing, according to a press release about the new program.

Moris said UNI hopes to continue to educate students who stay to work in the state.

“When the state of Iowa said, ‘Hey, we need to educate people,’ that’s usually one of those places that educated Iowa well and brought it back to their communities,” he said.

The addition of the program offers an opportunity to expand UNI’s existing collaboration with Allen College, Waterloo. The two institutions are discussing potential models that can help train additional nurses to join the Iowa workforce, the release said.

UNI will use existing facilities on its campus to house the program and will invest US$2 million in infrastructure and one-time costs to upgrade the facilities. According to the proposal, the funding of the program will be supported by the reallocation of existing resources.