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Mercy, BGSU write script for more nurses

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    Nursing students attend a review course recently at Mercy College of Ohio.

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    Bowling Green State University Vice President of Partnerships Sue Houston, left, and BGSU President Rodney Rogers, center, listen as Mercy Health Toledo President and CEO Bob Baxter discusses upcoming plans for BGSU to take ownership of Mercy College of Ohio.

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Mercy Health Systems, Bowling Green State University, and medical patients in Ohio all need more new nurses to enter the job market.

The recently announced plans to transfer operations of Mercy College of Ohio to BGSU hold the promise of expanding a nursing school at Bowling Green and producing enough new nurses to fill jobs at Mercy Health hospitals and others in Ohio and beyond.

The deal has yet to be finalized, but it could not only solve the problems for BGSU and Mercy Health, but the region and its students who would like to get nursing degrees.

Bowling Green recently announced it will end its 50-year partnership with the University of Toledo in which students would spend the first two years of a four-year program at their respective schools before competing for a limited number of spots in UT’s bachelor of science in nursing degree program for the last two years.

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Nursing students attend a review course recently at Mercy College of Ohio.

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When that partnership ends, all of those seats will go to University of Toledo students, which, for its own part is aiming to produce more nurses. This is also good for the region.

Mercy recently announced it plans to merge with Bon Secours Health System, a Catholic nonprofit health system headquartered in Maryland, to create a 43-hospital network across seven states with $8 billion in net operating revenue.

That growth plan runs smack into a nursing shortage that is crushing hospital systems around the country, as well as in Ohio.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts there will be 1 million job openings for registered nurses by 2024. Meanwhile, hospitals have sought for several years to increase the percentage of nurses who have four-year degrees to 80 percent by 2020. (About half of all registered nurses had bachelor’s degrees in 2010.)

“There is a huge demand for nurses,” BGSU President Rodney Rogers said. Bowling Green clearly aims to produce more of them, and Mercy expects to need them.

Many of the details need to be worked out, including whether Mercy College will maintain its Toledo facilities, whether faculty and staff can transfer to BGSU, and how much this will all cost.

Also, sensitive church-and-state questions remain about how Bowling Green can or should “preserve the Catholic legacy” of the Sisters of Mercy, as the tentative deal calls for.

“We certainly recognize that BGSU is a public institution and there is a lot of work to do there,” Mercy Health Toledo President and CEO Bob Baxter said.

These are not insignificant details, but the core goal of this plan is to provide more slots for more nursing students who should be well prepared to take jobs that hospitals badly need to fill.

Mr. Rogers describes the deal in terms of BGSU’s obligation to serve the public good in Ohio and meet the needs of the state’s workforce. This match seems to fit that bill.

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