Ranger College hopes bill passes to offer bachelor's degrees


BROWNWOOD, Texas - State lawmakers have proposed several bills aimed at addressing the workforce shortage in Texas.

Under the proposed legislation, students enrolled in community colleges, such as Ranger College and Cisco Junior College, would have the option of getting a four-year bachelor's degree.

Supporters note the bills would help fill jobs in Texas where there's a lack of skilled applicants. One of those cited is nursing.

According to the Texas Center for Nursing Workforce Studies, 40 percent of registered nurses are 54 or older. The organization projects the state will have a demand of 60,000 nurses by 2030.

Some schools are already working towards fixing the need.

"We put out over 150 nurses in the last year and a half," said Stephen Flora, director of Ranger College's Brown County campus.

Ranger has a horse in the race with the passage of these bills -- the college would expand its nursing school and introduce an early childhood development program in Brown County.

"We're growing," Flora said. "I think the need of the area has shown."

The school currently has 145 students enrolled in its nursing program, which offers a one-year Licensed Practical Nurse certificate and a two-year Registered Nurse degree.

Elena Hammonds has spent 13 years at Brownwood Regional Medical Center. She's the hospital's chief nursing officer, managing 180 nurses.

"You have different home health, hospice, hospital, and nursing homes; there's a multitude of opportunities," she said. "However, there's not enough bodies to fill them all."

BRMC has hired 36 nurses in the last eight months.

Hammonds has experienced the critical need for nurses firsthand.

"You have a more complex patient, with a reduced number of nurses … it's very concerning," Hammonds said.

The hospital has nine nursing positions currently open.

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