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Hillsborough Community College's new bachelor in nursing program helps close nursing shortage gap

Three years ago, when Hillsborough Community College started the process of becoming accredited to award baccalaureate degrees, the college was motivated by a troublesome gap in Hillsborough County’s workforce: A shortage of nurses.

“There are almost 1,300 jobs that go unfilled each year that require a bachelor of science in nursing — and that means there are 1,300 jobs that are not filling the health care needs of Hillsborough County,” says Ken Atwater, HCC’s president. “One of the things we pride ourselves on doing is being responsive to the workforce needs of our community, and it was very obvious that we needed to increase the talent pipeline of BSNs.”

With its baccalaureate accreditation in hand, HCC started enrolling students this fall in its bachelor of science in nursing program. More than 50 students have signed up so far, with another 25 expected to enroll later. Atwater estimates the program will eventually graduate at least 80 students a year.

To encourage more students to enroll, HCC’s foundation is raising scholarship money from Gale Healthcare Solutions, Tampa General Hospital, AdventHealth, Florida Blue and others. Through September, more than $125,000 has been raised.

Atwater isn’t sure what HCC’s next four-year degree will be in — but he’s certain the decision will be driven by local workforce needs, just as the nursing shortage spurred HCC’s first four-year program.

“One of the things we don’t want to do is train people for jobs that won’t be there after they graduate,” he says. “The increased job demand in nursing made it very evident that we needed to get into the game.”