How To Become A Nurse In Montana

Montana’s health care systems are scrambling to find solutions to ease the nursing shortage in the Big Sky Country, where most hospitals are experiencing vacancies.

According to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, nursing is one of the fastest growing careers in Montana which is facing a big increase in its need for qualified nurses. That means that means thousands of registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practice nurses (LPNs) will be needed for new job postings and to replace those leaving the field.

Most of the nurses in the largely rural state work in cities where most of those are employed in hospitals. Montana is a big but sparsely populated state with just under a million residents. While it is fourth largest in land area, it is the third least densely populated state.

Montana Needs Thousands of New Nurses by 2020

Currently there are 8,500 RNs working the state and 2,720 LPNs, according to a study by the Montana Area Health Education Center which has issued a new report on health care needs. The Center projects a need for 9,970 new RNs and 3,504 LPNs by 2020.

To that end, the state is developing strategies to prepare those interested in nursing to succeed in all areas of health professional education and to support post-secondary health programs through increased funding and faculty development.

While most Montana nurses work in the metropolitan areas, many are employed in rural areas of the state that features scenic mountain ranges and valleys with ski areas and rolling prairies. About 66 percent of the state is agricultural or farmland.. Montana now boasts 17 community health centers with one out of every 10 Montanans now relying on a community health center for primary care, according to the Montana Primary Care Association.

State Requires Continuing Education for Its Nurses

Montana state laws define the scope of nursing practice for both RNs and LPNs, who have a more limited role than RNs and cannot legally perform all of the duties of an RN. LPN educational programs are shorter than RN programs, but both RNs and LPNs must pass an NCLEX (National Council Licensure) exam to be licensed through the Montana Board of Nursing in order to practice.

The nursing board requires a transcript from an accredited nursing education program before allowing a student to apply to take the licensure examination. It also requires nurses with existing licenses to complete at least 24 hours of continuing education for their annual license renewal.

RNs are often the primary point of contact with a patient, both at bedside and in out-patient settings in the world of health care and Montana is encouraging its registered nurses to continue their educations. Montana is one of nine states to get a $300,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to help build a more highly educated nursing force and encourage nurses to get their bachelor’s degrees.

Nursing Schools in Montana

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Nursing School Locations

Carroll College
1601 North Benton Avenue
Helena, MT 59625
(800) 992-3648

Flathead Valley Community College
777 Grandview Drive
Kalispell, MT 59901
(800) 313-3822

Montana State University
College of Nursing
PO Box 173560
Bozeman, MT 59717-3560
(406) 994-3783

University of Montana
32 Campus Drive
Missoula, MT 59812
(406) 243-2022

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