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Hiring Hoosiers: WGU nursing program aims to fill deficit

Posted at 5:41 PM, May 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-22 17:41:45-04

INDIANAPOLIS — By the 2025, Indiana will have a deficit of over 20,000 registered nurses, according to statistics from the Bureau of Health Workforce.

As one local nurse works on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, her mother is helping a local university develop the nurses of the future.

"She's followed in my footsteps to a degree but then gone off on her own path which I think is wonderful," Mary Carney said.

Carney is the state director of nursing at WGU Indiana. Before taking the position she most recently worked in the pediatric critical care unit at Peyton Manning Children's Hospital. Her daughter, Sarah Bilek, is also a nurse.

"I was in nursing school when she was born," Carney said. "I missed my nursing school's pinning ceremony because I was in the hospital giving birth to her."

"I have always been a caregiver," Bilek said. "It started when I was really young and I was helping take care of my grandpa. He was the first one that told me I would be a good nurse."

Bilek is working on her master's degree in nursing education at WGU while also working as a nurse on the front lines of the pandemic at Ascension St. Vincent.

"It's been stressful," Bilek said. "You have to make time to do thing that you enjoy and things that refill you so you can go out and take care of other people."

LEARN MORE | WGU Indiana online nursing program

"There are a lot of nursing program that meet the needs of the 18-year-old right out of high school and plenty of program for that," Carney said. "Our program works with older adults. My average student is 37 years old, has a full-time job and is raising a family."

WGU Indiana is an online university, which also targets students living in rural areas that are underserved by higher education. Carney said it's critical for the future of healthcare in Indiana to get students enrolled in the nursing program.

"The average nurse in Indiana is almost 50 years old," Carney said. "Statistically we are looking at a wave of retirements. We are very close to a crisis in nurses."

Carney said as experienced nurses retire there are not enough new graduates taking their place.

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