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The Southern Illinois University community received exciting news from Illinois Board of Higher Education today in Aurora as the IBHE approved proposals for four programs at SIU.

Three of the programs are in healthcare — a bachelor’s degree in registered nursing and doctorate programs in physical therapy and occupational therapy. The fourth is business analytics.

“It is very exciting for our area,” said John Dunn, SIU Carbondale interim chancellor.

“I think we are all super excited about this opportunity,” said Scott Collins, professor and director of School of Allied Health.

Dunn acknowledged the leadership and expertise of Rex Budde, president and CEO of Southern Illinois Healthcare. He said a group from SIU traveled to Aurora to meet the new president of the board and new board members.

“Rex Budde was just outstanding," Dunn said. "He offered comments to validate the need for nurses and level of support from SIH. I am thankful for that kind of leadership and support. I certainly want to thank him and his organization."

“We are just excited about the new collaboration with SIU to develop these kinds of programs. I like the direction we are heading,” Budde said. “It was a good day for the region.

SIH has pledged $1 million in seed money to get the program up and running.

Budde said some of the nursing students who currently get clinical experience at SIH hospitals are from the St. Louis metro east area. They graduate and go back there to work.

“It will be nice to focus on kids we know want to stay in Southern Illinois,” Budde said. “We want to give them the opportunity to get all the education they want and need right here with clinical experience at local hospitals and make it as convenient as possible.”

Budde added that students often want to work in specific positions, such as surgical or intensive care nurses. One of the tough questions they are tackling is how to design a program that gives students more clinical exposure while learning, so that they graduate further along in their nursing careers.

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“We want to help students develop as quickly as possible,” Budde said. “We want to keep people in Southern Illinois.”

The nursing program will feature three separate tracks:

  • A traditional four-year BSN track is for incoming freshmen who want to pursue a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Students also will earn a minor in health care management.
  • An RN to BSN degree track is for registered nurses who have an associate degree and want to earn a bachelor’s degree. These students also may earn a minor in health care management through online courses.
  • An accelerated BSN track is for students who have a Bachelor of Science degree in a different field or who have 70 to 80 credit hours completed toward a bachelor’s degree along with prerequisite courses. Coursework in this track will be completed within 12 months. This program is expected to begin in fall 2021.

Dunn said each track will admit 50 students as the program becomes fully functional. Eventually that will lead to 100 students. “We are committed to making sure we do it right,” he said.

The program will focus on high quality instruction, the needs of rural healthcare, and the needs of the region. In addition to SIH, other local hospitals will partner with SIU to provide clinical experience. They also have had good interaction with local community colleges.

“They know their students, who are also our students, and their passion and affection for this region. It’s about the students. They are very wise in recognizing our students. Nursing is a great career with many jobs and opportunities. We want to make sure we do our job to help our region,” Budde said.

Collins added that the occupational and physical therapy doctorate programs will fill a need in the region, too.

“Those programs are hard to find. We are excited to get that off the ground, too,” Budde said.

For more information on the nursing, physical therapy or occupational therapy degree options, contact Mary Smith, academic adviser in the School of Health Sciences, or Robert Broomfield, allied health specialist, at 618-453-7211.

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Reporter

Marilyn Halstead is a reporter covering Williamson County.

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