Career technical programs provide continuing and college-track education options for in-demand nursing professions

By Ellen Bryant Messenger and Emeline Kelly

National Nurses Week -- celebrated every year on May 6 through May 12 -- was enacted in order to recognize the indispensible men and women who work as registered nurses in our healthcare system. Dedicated to helping promote and maintain patient wellbeing, nurses tirelessly serve our communities 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 356 days a year.

This national holiday is also a reminder of the growing need for more RNs in our Columbus community and nationwide. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that employment of registered nurses will grow 19 percent from 2012 to 2022 – faster than the average for all other occupations. In fact, the RN workforce is expected to have 1.05 million job openings for nurses by 2022. This is a direct result of increased emphasis on preventative care, growing rates of chronic conditions -- such as diabetes and obesity -- and the retiring Baby Boomer population and their growing need for care.However, despite the growth in opportunity, demand has been quickly outweighing supply, resulting in a shortage of RNsin coming years.

Bringing it closer to home, Ohio Means Jobs calculates that there are 4,271 job openings in Ohio each year for RNs, putting the profession at the top of the list for in-demand occupations. Additionally, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics nurses make an average of $66,000 a year. These facts make pursuing a career as an RN a compelling and promising option.

In Central Ohio, there are numerous degree opportunities for RNs. Most all area colleges offer programs and there are also specialized nursing schools. But an often overlooked opportunity lives within our city's career technical education centers, which train both high school students and adults for the field of nursing.

Area career technical schools are working to actively encourage and empower more men and women to explore this promising and rewarding career path. Connected with businesses throughout Central Ohio, career tech partners are reporting high demand for home health workers, STNAs (State Tested Nursing Aide), and medical assistants. Schools such as Tolles Career and Technical Center and Tri-Rivers Career Center have tailored their healthcare program offerings in response and high school students can actually earn their STNA for free prior to graduation.

Starting as early as high school, students can explore these curriculums.Tolles Career & Technical Centeroffers a Pre-Nursing program that continually ranks as one of its most popular pathways. Similarly, Tri-Rivers Career Center offers high school students the opportunity to earn their STNA for free and prior to graduation so they can do clinical work in nursing homes and hospital settings. Keeping up with the demand for more nurses, Tri-Rivers has additionally partnered with select Universities and has secured articulation foran additional pathway that enables students to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

Career technical education centers are focused on providing hands-on curriculums that meet the needs of today's employers. They offer students the opportunity to enter the nursing profession and get a jumpstart by earning their STNA for free while in high school.As the demand for registered nurses, home health aids and health technicians increases, career technical centers will expand and grow their programs appropriately. Able to adapt quickly and provide students with access to real-life experiences, the latest technology, and actionable certification training, students are lifted up and provided with promising opportunities when they explore career choices with career technical schools.

Ellen Bryant Messenger is Director of Communications and Emeline Kelly is Nursing Administrator for Tri-Rivers Career Center and Adult Center.