Demand for more nurses is driving Mesa Community College to expand programs next summer to help paramedics become registered nurses.
Pamela Bischoff, a registered nurse who will lead the paramedic-to-nurses program, said she hopes to get 20 signed up for the program.
But she recognizes it will be difficult for paramedics to take on course work while caring for families and continuing to work.
The college aims to eventually have 50 graduates from the program every semester.
As the baby boomer generation ages, medical workers worry that they will lack the staff to provide adequate care for the elderly.
Nurses are among those in need. But they, too, are aging. The average age of nurses is in the upper 40s, said Myrna Eshelman, chairwoman of the college’s nursing department. Among nurse educators, the average age is about 53.
"We’re having trouble finding enough faculty to teach, enough clinical space and enough classroom space," she said.
The profession is failing to draw newcomers because of the hours nurses have to put in, college officials said.
"It is just hard work," said Bischoff, an emergency medical services coordinator for the Mesa Fire Department. She’s been sending information to all the paramedics registered throughout the state, and she’s gotten responses from some as far away as Yuma.
To be accepted in the program, the paramedics must take the nurse entrance test and score 50 percent or higher in the areas of reading and math. Requirements also include some prerequisite courses available at the college.