DHMC invests in Colby-Sawyer health sciences program

by Emily Lu | 2/4/20 2:10am

Following the announcement of an expanded partnership between Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and Colby-Sawyer College in 2019, Dartmouth-Hitchcock will invest $3.25 million in a variety of Colby-Sawyer health science programs to address the region’s shortage of health care professionals. This multi-year investment aims to increase enrollment in the New London college’s nursing program and implement multiple health science programs, with a goal of addressing more than a 1,000 job vacancies within D-H.  

According to Colby-Sawyer College president Sue Stuebner ’93, the partnership first began in 1981, when the Mary Hitchcock Memorial School of Nursing closed and Colby-Sawyer introduced a bachelor of science nursing degree. Colby-Sawyer students have since benefited from clinical rotations and internships within the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health system. 

According to a Colby-Sawyer press release, there are currently 30 to 40 students receiving their undergraduate degrees each year in nursing from Colby-Sawyer, and 80 percent of these undergraduates go on to work at D-H. Still, there are more than 1,000 job vacancies at D-H — the state’s largest and only academic health system.

“It ended up being a marriage of needs that we both have,” Stuebner said. “The [Dartmouth-Hitchcock] health system is looking to recruit and retain the best professionals they can across all the different areas of needs that they have, and we saw that this was really a way where Colby-Sawyer could build on the strength in our nursing program.”

According to Stuebner, Colby-Sawyer hopes to triple the number of nursing undergraduates within the next 10 years. Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s investment begins with an initial installment of $750,000, which will fund renovations to accommodate larger classes and hiring additional faculty. Subsequent funding will be provided once Colby-Sawyer meets certain milestones regarding their nursing and health science degrees.

With the investment, Colby-Sawyer will also be offering five new bachelor’s degree programs in the fall of 2020: addiction studies, healthcare administration, health science, medical laboratory science and social work. 

“These areas are known to have a shortage of workers in them and also, within our region, limited opportunities to obtain bachelor degrees in,” D-H chief human resource officer Aimee Giglio said. 

Other new programs include an associate’s degree in health sciences providing further education for current D-H employees, as well as two new tracks for Colby-Sawyer’s Master of Science in Nursing: nursing leadership and nursing education.

“Because the programs are local, it provides existing employees an opportunity to get the advancement of professional development needed to advance their careers,” Giglio said.

With the revenue generated from the new associate’s and master’s programs along with additional fundraising, Colby-Sawyer expects to be more financially independent in the upcoming years.

“By year five, we expect to be able to wean ourselves from the Dartmouth investment and be self-sufficient,” Stuebner said.

The numerous health science programs hope to alleviate the shortage of health professionals in New Hampshire. According to a Colby-Sawyer press release, health care is predicted to account for 21 percent of all job growth between now and 2026, with the need for specific professions such as family nurse practitioners growing by 34.7 percent. There are also more than 6,500 unfilled healthcare jobs in the state, which is only expected to increase. 

“A lot of hospitals are relying on visiting professionals for a variety of roles,” Stuebner said. “The more that we can help with some of those different health science majors and graduates, it’ll be a real opportunity for [those students] in terms of having a choice about where they want to work.”