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Sanford, NDSU nursing programs to partner

BISMARCK – Sanford Health announced Friday it will form a partnership with North Dakota State University for nursing education instead of independently operating its Sanford College of Nursing.

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While a final agreement has not been reached, officials from Sanford and NDSU confirmed a forthcoming educational partnership Friday by signing a memorandum of understanding.

After the Sanford-Bismarck Medcenter One merger last year, Sanford College of Nursing’s accrediting agency recommended the school “explore partnerships” due to new accreditation standards, said Craig Lambrecht, Sanford Bismarck president.

The Higher Learning Commission, which accredits the program and thousands of other schools, expects nursing programs to have the ability to direct themselves without additional rules and oversight from other entities, Lambrecht said.

Sanford has a “couple extra layers,” Lambrecht said.

While the school still meets accreditation standards, the Higher Learning Commission advised that the school’s independence could be called into question in the future, Lambrecht said, so they were proactive in identifying a partner.

NDSU “naturally rose to the top,” Lambrecht said.

He said the programs have similar admissions standards and curricula.

“We have such a great nursing program. We don’t want to have a dramatically different partner,” he said.

Sanford’s program has about 136 students.

He added that the majority of faculty and staff would continue teaching, and there would be a need for more positions if they are able to increase program offerings – such as postgraduate programs in public health and a doctoral program for nurse practitioners – through partnership with NDSU.

“Those are things we can’t do by ourselves. We’re maxed out on what we can do,” Lambrecht said.

For NDSU, instruction in Bismarck will provide an opportunity to meet health care needs in the western part of the state.

“North Dakota faces a growing challenge in meeting the demand across the spectrum for health care in the western areas of the state,” NDSU President Dean Bresciani said in a statement. “Traditional sources of credentialed health care professionals and the delivery methods are inadequate in terms of meeting current much less future demands.”

Many of the potential program’s details are yet to be determined because the parties have only reached a memorandum of understanding.

A final agreement will likely be in place by fall 2014.

Tentatively, current students will matriculate as Sanford College of Nursing graduates this May. Students would earn their diplomas through NDSU when the partnership is final.