It's been 12 years since Saint Martin's University scrapped a continuing education program that allowed nurses to earn their bachelor's and master's degrees while working.
The reason given — and disputed by some program supporters at the time — was it was operating in the red, losing about $100,000 a year.
A lot has changed since 1998: The demand for highly trained nurses is on the rise here in South Sound and elsewhere in the region and the nation as an aging population of baby boomers requires more medical services.
There’s a good chance the program could be a nice academic fit for the Lacey university as South Sound’s role as a regional medical services hub continues to grow. Currently, working nurses with two-year degrees have to travel to Tacoma to pursue a four-year degree.
So its encouraging to hear that SMU President Roy Heynderickx is interested in exploring the possibility of restarting the nursing program.
The first order of business is for the university to do a feasibility study to determine what classes, instructors and equipment would be needed, and at what cost.
It makes sense for the university to work closely with South Puget Sound Community College as it considers starting a two-year program for nurses who already have an associate degree.
It could be a year or so before the university decides whether to restore a scaled down nursing curriculum. That’s enough time to gather all the data necessary to make an informed, economically viable decision.