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Department of Labor honors Ohio University-Chillicothe nursing program with Recognition of Excellence

ATHENS, Ohio (Aug. 1, 2006) -- A joint nursing education project created by the Ohio University-Chillicothe regional campus and Berger Health System in Circleville, Ohio, has received national Recognition of Excellence from the U.S. Department of Labor.

The Ohio University-Chillicothe/Berger Collaborative Nursing Program was awarded the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration's Recognition of Excellence honor in the highly competitive "Educating America's 21st Century Workplace" category, one of the five accolades for successful programs and practices.

"We are flattered to have been selected as the 2006 national winner of the Department of Labor's 'Educating America's 21st Century Workplace' workforce development award. This national recognition also helps Ohio University achieve its Vision OHIO goal of being a nationally prominent university," said Richard Bebee, dean of Ohio University-Chillicothe.

The Ohio University-Chillicothe/Berger Collaborative Nursing Program was first developed in October 2002 and became fully operational by March 2003. The program emerged when the Ohio University-Chillicothe nursing faculty was looking for a solution to decrease the number of nursing school applicants on its waiting list as well as contribute relief to the national nursing shortage. They approached Berger Health System with the idea of expanding the nursing classes to the hospital and community setting.

"At the university, it was an opportunity to create additional capacity in their nursing program," said Sandy Rudawsky, Berger Health System chief operating officer. "For Berger Heath System, it was an opportunity to change the quality of life for patients and people in the community."

With the assistance of the $200,000 ETA High Growth Job Training grant, Ohio University-Chillicothe/Berger Health System partnership modified the two-year associate degree program into a three-year program offering flexibility for non-traditional students, including hospital staff, expectant mothers and income-restricted participants. 

"The program created an opportunity for people who couldn't originally take part in a nursing program because of scheduling and juggling multiple family commitments. We created an environment which made it possible for them to succeed," Rudawsky said.

The Ohio University-Chillicothe/Berger Collaborative Nursing Program earned the national award based on a variety of factors, including its efficiency in creating the program, doubling the capacity of nursing students, the program's 86 percent student retention rate, and Berger Health System's hiring 17 of the program's first graduates. 

The program is premised on a long-term joint research project designed to assess its student success rates on nursing board exams compared to graduates of traditional university-based programs, and to assess career satisfaction rates among its graduate nurses working bedside jobs in hospitals.

Berger Health System made a major gift to Ohio University-Chillicothe's Bicentennial Campaign to create an endowed nursing professorship to teach courses at the hospital. In addition, Berger paid tuition for its employees in the program and offered scholarships to multiple participants.

A third contributor to the project was Circleville High School, which provided space for laboratory work as well as a location for the March graduation.

"We are very pleased to have been a partner with Berger Health System and Circleville High School for the past several years," Bebee said. "Through this partnership many additional area students have been able to achieve their dream of becoming a nurse."

In addition to the 19 March graduates, seven more students completed the program in June. A new class of 32 students began March 28 and will graduate in 2008.

Staff members from both Berger Health System and Ohio University-Chillicothe attribute the program and its success to the cumulative efforts of the partnership.

"We had a visionary board of governors, an innovative dean at the university and people who were truly committed to the project," Rudawsky said. "We didn't talk it to death. We did it." 

Joining Dean Bebee in the acceptance of the award in Anaheim, Calif. were Rudawsky, Berger Health System Resource Specialist Nicole Esker, Ohio University-Chillicothe Assistant Professor of Nursing Lisa Kauffman, Circleville City Schools Superintendent Sam Lucas, Berger Vice President of Human Resources, Suzanne Welker, Circleville Mayor and Berger Health System Board Chairman Jean Droste, Circleville High School Principal Paul Vitartas, Circleville City School Assistant Superintendent Tom Patterson and ETA selected Face of Success Robin Pavey.

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Media Contact: Media Relations Coordinator Jessica Stark, (740) 597-2938 or starkj@ohio.edu

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