One of the most persistent challenges in health care is filling the growing need for nurses, especially in certain specialties.

Colorado, for one, is projected to have a deficit of about 17,000 registered and licensed practical nurses by 2025, according to the National Center for Health Workforce Analysis. To meet that need, hospitals and nursing schools have been working together to bolster the pool of nurses. One example in Colorado Springs is a partnership involving UCHealth Memorial Hospital, Pikes Peak Community College and the University of Colorado Colorado Springs.

"We want to be proactive about building programs for retention of our incumbent staff and recruitment of nurses," says JoAnn DelMonte, R.N., senior director of professional development for UCHealth.

Under the program, students who attain an associate's degree in nursing at Pikes Peak Community College can go directly into the nursing baccalaureate program at UCCS.

DelMonte cites a 2011 Institute of Medicine report recommending that 80 percent of nurses hold bachelor's degrees by 2020 to meet 21st-century health care needs. She says the Colorado Springs partnership has boosted the recruitment of baccalaureate nurses to UCHealth Memorial Hospital.

DelMonte says other UCHealth strategies to recruit and retain high-quality nurses include a nationally accredited nurse residency program; a pathway program that allows incumbent nurses to transition into specialty units; and an advanced care partner program that enables nursing students to work at UCHealth hospitals in expanded nursing assistant roles.   

Catholic Health Initiatives' North Dakota/Minnesota division has its own strategies to attract nurses to rural areas, including a tuition program.

In Boston, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center partners with the Simmons College School of Nursing and Health Sciences in a program that focuses on producing nursing leaders.

Laurie Bloom, R.N., associate chief nurse for professional development at Beth Israel, says the program was started because the medical center wasn't getting enough applicants for nurse management positions. Simmons created a master's in nursing administration track that combines courses in the school of nursing with courses in the health care administration program.

The program is a cohort model, in which students take all their courses together. Bloom says 38 Beth Israel nurses will have graduated from the program by December.

"We have had a dramatic increase in applicants for open director positions due to the pool of cohort participants," Bloom says. "We've had nine or 10 promotions to nursing director, and one promotion from a director to a senior director, with program oversight. We've had great results."

In addition, Beth Israel partners with Simmons College in a doctor of nursing practice program. 

Joan Shinkus Clark, president of the American Organization of Nurse Executives, says such partnerships are more crucial than ever because of the growing demands of nursing. She says her organization has been partnering with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing to improve the alignment between academia and nursing practice.

"Our patients, particularly in hospitals, are getting sicker and living longer and have multiple diseases that have to be managed simultaneously," Clark says. "It's critical that nurses in their novice years be well-prepared to provide that front-line care in a safe and reliable way."