One of the many things the pandemic has brought to the forefront is the need for a sustained nursing workforce.  To help meet that need, Aurora BayCare Medical Center is teaming up with UWGB to provide nursing students a place to sharpen their critical thinking skills and get practical, hands-on experience before ever stepping foot in the hospital.

UW Green Bay nursing student Emma McKinch admits she didn’t always want to be a nurse. 

“I wanted to be a figure skater at one point in my life,” she chucked, “but after that I wanted to be a nurse.”

Thanks to what some may call that fortuitous change in career choice, McKinch will soon be a highly sought after job candidate.

“Now more than ever we need nurses.  We need medical professionals,” said April Leon, manager of Nursing Education at Aurora BayCare.

According to a UWGB annual report, it’s estimated the shortage of registered nurses in Wisconsin will increase to nearly 20,000 by the year 2035, representing a 35% shortfall.  That’s where the new partnership between Aurora BayCare and UWGB comes in.

“That partnership between academic institutions and healthcare organizations is so influential,” said Leon.  “We’re better preparing our future nurses.”

The Aurora BayCare Medical Center Nursing Skills Center on the UWGB campus is a big part of that preparation. It’s a simulation lab where nursing students put the concepts they’ve learned in the classroom to practical application, on hi-tech, incredibly life-like patient mannequins.

“We have mannequins that can breathe, can blink, that can speak to you,” Leon explained.  “So it’s providing more factors to make it as real as possible.” 

McKinch says that the ability to practice her actual nursing skills while still in school makes a big difference.

“As someone who’s just learning all this information, having this space to practice and make mistakes in a very safe environment where you’re not going to hurt anyone in real life is just so helpful,” McKinch explained.

Ultimately, it will be those of us in the community who are most helped.

“The goal is to provide the best, safest practice to patients when you get out there in the real world,” said Leon.

Stay tuned to Local 5 News for part two of this story, going from classroom to career in the state-of-the-art Advocate Aurora Health Simulation Center.  Wednesday, March 9 on Local 5 News at 5pm.