HOLYOKE, Mass. - Westfield State University and Holyoke Community College announced a new partnership Monday where they'll allow students to enroll in both school's nursing programs simultaneously to earn an associates and bachelor’s degree in a shorter period of time.

What You Need To Know

  • Westfield State University and Holyoke Community College have signed an agreement to allow students enroll in both the school's nursing programs simultaneously

  • The goal is to have student nurses earn an associates and bachelor's degree in a shorter period of time

  • A recent report from the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission shows the number of open positions for registered nurses at acute and community hospitals more than doubled over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Westfield State University has faced issues up to this point with not being able to enroll even half of their baccalaureate students due to high volume.

"It will put people out into the workforce quicker who not only have an associate degree in nursing, but also a bachelor's," said Westfield State President Linda Thompson. "So you'll have higher educated people going into the workforce in a timely fashion."

Thompson said student nurses will be taking courses at both HCC and Westfield State over the course of the new program. She said it's important students have a faster path to nursing due to current shortages and the potential for their to be even more nursing vacancies soon.

A recent report from the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission shows the number of open positions for registered nurses at acute care and community hospitals more than doubled over the course of the  COVID-19 pandemic.

"A large number of people who are in the nursing workforce right now are going to retire in the next two to five years," Thompson said. "And not only is that a problem, but we have an aging population, so the need to have people who are highly skilled knowing how to take care of chronically ill people is increasing because of aging."

HCC Director of Nursing Teresa Beaudry said in conversations with Westfield State’s director of nursing, Westfield has an issue with not being able to enroll the high volume of its applicants, so the partnership could allow more to have opportunities.

"Speaking with Jessica, when she said they have so many applicants to their bachelor's program and they can't accept even 50% of their baccalaureate students, we decided why is that happening?" Beaudry said. "So we're looking at any student who is interested in getting their bachelor's, but especially students who are not getting into the bachelor's program."

The schools say another advantage is accessibility, as tuition costs at a community college can make this program more affordable.