New Nursing Program To Ease Shortages In Health Care

December 5, 2022

This is an excerpt from an article from The Gaston Gazette, written by Kevin Ellis. Click here to read the original article.

On Tuesday, November 29, many gathered on a tour of Belmont Abbey College to view firsthand the progress of the new nursing program that began in August 2022 at Gaston County’s only four-year college.

CaroMont Health, the parent company of the local hospital and multiple medical offices, partnered with Belmont Abbey College to start the nursing program just as it announced plans in 2019 to build a second hospital now taking shape adjacent to the campus.

CaroMont Cares aims to help the county’s second largest employer, only a hundred or so behind the public school system, take advantage of its investment by creating a pipeline of nursing talent and other medical professionals from Belmont Abbey College into its medical offices and hospitals.

“We’re trying to come up with some way to solve this nursing-shortage problem long term,” said semi-retired attorney T.J. Solomon, also a member of CaroMont Cares.

Also along for the tour of the nursing program at Belmont Abbey College were sisters from the Sisters of Mercy, which has a hospital in Charlotte and were the original occupants of the nursing program’s building, and several members of the Cherry family, who earlier in the day awarded two students nursing scholarships.

Hospitals and medical offices have experienced nursing shortages for about 100 years, Carolyn Harmon, the nursing program’s first dean, told the group. Despite those shortages, four new hospitals are under construction in the greater Charlotte region in addition to the one in Belmont.

“How are we going to staff these hospitals?” she asked. “Well, we’re going to try to do that.”

Early days of new program

Harmon described the start of the program as “fantastic.” There have been moments of learning from mistakes, but nothing major, she said.

“As we continue to grow, everything’s only going to get better,” she said.

The inaugural class of students seeking a bachelor of science degree in nursing that started in August of this year at Belmont Abbey numbered 21, and included two men. Hospitals and other medical groups have attempted to recruit more men into nursing for decades, so even two counts as a success, Harmon said.

In the next few years, Belmont Abbey expects to see its nursing classes filled with 80 students and then jump to 120 students in the next three to five years, Harmon said.

Those numbers may seem high considering Belmont Abbey has a total enrollment of about 1,500 students, Harmon said.

“We need those numbers (in nursing) so that we can serve the community,” Harmon said.

Belmont Abbey will start its RN to BSN (registered nurse to bachelor of science in nursing) and its master of science in nursing degree programs in January 2023.

Belmont Abbey Difference

The state’s only Roman Catholic college prides itself on its spiritual aspect. Nursing students at Belmont Abbey will also get training in ethics and empathy while learning medical skills.

“I know you can’t really teach people empathy, but we’re going to try to,” Harmon told the group.

Harmon later spoke of what she has experienced at Belmont Abbey. People willing to help and kindness were just two of her experiences, she said.

“There is something about Belmont Abbey,” Harmon said after her talk. “That is a sense of peace and fulfillment and joy.”