LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- UA Little Rock and CHI St. Vincent announced a new three-year initiative to fill nursing shortages in Arkansas on Thursday.

The new program comes at a time when vacancy rates for nurses continue to rise around the nation. If you're compassionate and love to give back, nursing may be the field for you. Under this new agreement, UA Little Rock will recruit and educate about 40 students in an accelerated program that also offers financial assistance.

“This program was the only choice in my mind. I had to come here to UA Little Rock,” said Deziray Jackson, a recent graduate of the Nursing Department. Jackson will work at the Arkansas Heart Hospital.

"I decided to pursue nursing because of the hands-on care with patients,” DeeDee Moline said.

She also just recently graduated and looks forward to a career at CHI St. Vincent. In central Arkansas alone, there are more than 700 open nursing positions. These two institutions are joining forces to recruit and retain.

"Nurses today are aging, they're nearing retirement age. Yet the demand for health care services is growing,” said Chad Aduddell, CEO of CHI St. Vincent.

The Pathway Program is an 18-month accelerated associate of applied science degree.

“We have to be careful about the candidates we give the scholarship to. We're hoping that we get 40 students into this accelerated program and that we graduate 40 students,” Andrew Rogerson said, Chancellor of UA Little Rock.

To increase affordability, $2,500 per semester will be awarded to each Pathway Program student. The program seeks quality nurses with interest in longevity.


"I did not have any medical background at all, the way of thinking is completely different,” Jackson said.

Recent graduates said it’s important for future students to keep an open mind.

“It's a great job, you can work anywhere in the country. Hospitals are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so the opportunities are fantastic,” Aduddell added.

It’s a win for Arkansas patient care and a win for increased student capacity. With labs that mimic real hospitals, students leave prepared to make a difference.

“We have mannequins that can deliver babies, mannequins that have lips that turn blue. They can tell what medicine we're pushing in and how fast we're pushing it in, it's great. This is a great place to come learn how to be a nurse,” said Moline.

The first 40 students will enter the Pathway Program this fall. Graduates will join the nursing staff at CHI St. Vincent for a minimum of 24 months. The goal is for students to complete the program debt free.