SAU works to alleviate nurse shortage through online program

A nursing student provides services for kids from the St. Ambrose Children’s Campus in Davenport in this file photo.

By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

St. Ambrose University hopes to address a nursing shortage across rural America through its new Nano Nagle Online School of Nursing. Starting this fall, working healthcare professionals will have access to flexible, remote learning opportunities —no matter where they live.

“The need for nurses is increasing due to the aging population and increase in chronic conditions,” Katrina Browning, the Ann Hink­house Endowed Chair of Nursing and interim associate dean of the College of Health and Human Services said. A significant number of nurses left the profession during the COVID-19 pandemic, and many others are nearing retirement age, she added. The Bureau for Labor Statistics suggests that the demand for registered nurses (RNs) may exceed 3.6 million by 2030, a large gap to fill following 2021 when the number of RNs leaving the workforce was the steepest in over four decades.

The Nano Nagle Online School of Nursing will offer Licensed Practical Nurses the opportunity to work toward Registered Nurse certification and a Bachelor of Nursing degree. “Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) have a much more limited scope of practice compared to registered nurses (RNs),” Browning explained. “An LPN can monitor vital signs, assist with activities of daily living, and distribute oral medications, while an RN can assess patients, start IVs, distribute oral and IV meds, and more.”


RNs who do not have a Bachelor of Nursing degree will have the opportunity to earn one through the new online school. These professionals will complete coursework focused on community health and enhanced health assessment, coupled with clinical experiences. Students will also learn how to enhance their leadership skills, Browning said.

Individuals living and working in rural areas of the Midwest “are likely not able to access a BSN program that is only formatted in the traditional manner, as the schools may be hours away from their home,“ Browning said. Students in the online program will be able to complete the required clinical experiences relatively close to home, she added. “We are working with several health care systems” to allow for that.

SAU President Amy Novak said it’s more important than ever that educational institutions use new modalities to build learning opportunities that recognize students’ different needs and location-bound realities.

The online college is named for Venerable Honora Nagle, also known as Nano Nagle, a pioneer of Roman Catholic education in Ireland. She founded the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (PBVM), commonly known as the Presentation Sisters, who founded Presentation College in South Dakota. SAU’s announcement of the new online nursing school builds on an established consortium agreement with Presentation College’s flagship nursing program, which will cease operations May 8.

“It is a privilege to have the opportunity to build on the long history of Presentation College and the Presentation Sisters to deliver SAU’s adaptive, online learning format,” Novak said. “We want to ensure that, wherever you are located as a student, you have what it takes to become the nurse of your future and make a direct impact on the community in which you live and serve.”
SAU continues to offer a traditional in-person nursing program and a hybrid accelerated program.

For more information about the Nano Nagle Online School of Nursing at St. Ambrose, please visit

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