MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Following a years-long struggle to maintain staffing levels, WVU Medicine has gone back to a familiar concept to give more people at any point in their work lives the opportunity to earn a nursing degree.

The West Virginia RN Board has approved their plans for a 21-month diploma program through the WVU Medicine Center for Nursing Education (the Center). The Center will prepare students to take the same licensure tests taken by two and four-year nursing students.

On MetroNews “Talkline,” President and CEO of WVU Medicine, Albert Wright, said they wanted a program that would incentivize people to become nurses and address the ongoing critical shortage.

“We want to remove all of the barriers for folks to do that,” Wright said. “Cover all the tuition and all of the books, so we really try to increase the number of people who maybe never thought about going into health care or maybe never thought about getting a health care-related degree.”

The program will be operated and managed from Morgantown by the WVU Innovation Corp. on Chestnut Ridge Road, which will accommodate 200 students. But the program could have spoken to reach out to satellite communities, which would add to the number in each class.

“The main teaching might happen here in Morgantown, but maybe you have a cohort of students and an instructor at our Princeton hospital or our Keyser hospital, so we really start to train more nurses closer to where they live,” Wright said.

Wright explained that the program is more hands-on, with less academic exposure but more experiential learning.

“It will be a lot heavier on clinical practice and a little less on some of the non-clinical academic course work, so this is a very vocational type of nursing degree,” Wright said.

The program will include simulations and resources, like a skull lab. With the resources of WVU Medicine, Wright said he believes they are on the path of providing a pipeline of trained nurses.

“We just had our curriculum approved by the West Virginia RN Board,” Wright said. “I believe we are the largest hospital system in the state; we’re the only magnet-certified hospital in the state, and we are going to produce some really good bedside nurses.”

One of the feeders for the program Wright believes will be the MedEd program offered at Morgantown High School and University High School in Monongalia County Schools. The free programs position high school graduates to start a career in the medical field immediately.

“We’re doing the same thing out in Berkley County and Jefferson County, and I think we’ll get some folks that are thinking about a second career,” Wright said.