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Coming Together to Sustain and Grow Lake County’s Nursing Workforce

In 2020, Rosalind Franklin University (RFU) formed a unique coalition to support nursing education and employment planning in Lake County. This committed and expanding coalition of partners includes the RFU College of Nursing, Lake Forest College, College of Lake County, Northwestern Memorial Health Care, Lake County Partners, Lake County Workforce Development, Lake County high schools, Condell Hospital, Lurie Children’s Hospital/Patrick Magoon Institute, Endeavor Health (formerly NorthShore University HealthSystem) and others representing higher education, health care, government, business and the community. All are focused on the same singular goal to support our youth and adult residents to achieve nursing careers.

The coalition has created an innovative 3 phase program that begins with high school students.

  1. Phase I, Nursing INSPIRE — this is an 8-week, full-time summer work-study program for high school students interested in nursing. Students earn a wage while attending the program to help support themselves and their families. Students from North Chicago, Round Lake, Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep, Waukegan, and Highland Park high schools are eligible to join the program. Students can become certified nursing assistants, receive mosaic mentorship (multiple mentors including graduate students and interprofessional faculty and staff), identify career and employment opportunities, and learn writing skills and financial literacy. They learn through highly interactive activities and visit many types of healthcare facilities. After completing the CNA curriculum, they can take the certification exam and work in a variety of settings.
  2. Phase II, BA degree — students can earn conditional admission into RFU’s Phase III RN, Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) for Entry-to-Practice (ENP) program from high school through acceptance to one of our college partners. They are offered accelerated undergraduate classes enabling them to earn a BA and MSN in five years and can continue to work part-time in our local healthcare systems while earning their BA/MSN. During this time, they will receive ongoing mentorship and internship opportunities.
  3. Phase III, RFU’S MSN-ENP degree program launched February 2023, and 38 students from diverse backgrounds are enrolled. In addition, RFU has conditionally admitted 18 high school students attending college (Phase II) for admission to Phase III in 2025 and 2026.
  4. Phase IV, employment of Nursing INSPIRE graduates as CNAs starts as early as September 2023, and our MSN-ENP graduates as RNs as early as March 2025.