Milwaukee Nursing Program Expands to Fill Dire Nursing Shortage

Eighteen-year-old MaLinda Rost collected two diplomas, earning a nursing degree from Milwaukee Area Technical College not long after she graduated from high school.

For MaLinda, it’s an accomplishment years in the making. She keenly recalls deciding to become a nurse when she was just 7 years old, so to her family, it’s no surprise she became the first high school student to enroll and graduate from MATC’s Licensed Practical Nurse program. She plans to continue in the school’s progression program to finish her Registered Nursing (RN) degree.

“When anybody was ever sick at home when I was younger, I was always the one to run off the couch and get them a glass of water, or bring them the box of tissues or the bag of cough drops,” MaLinda said. “I love interacting with people and nursing is one of the only careers that you really get to do that.”

MaLinda’s recent graduating class is part of a large effort to bolster MATC’s nursing student enrollment, thanks to a $2.3 million grant from the United Health Foundation.

MATC is Wisconsin’s largest technical college and is the state’s foremost providers of nurses. The grant allowed MATC to:

  • Work towards doubling enrollment in three years

  • Hire new nursing program instructors

  • Recruit low-income students

  • Provide tutors and support to students in need

  • Help with placement services once students graduate

The nursing shortage in Wisconsin could reach crisis levels, as baby boomers age and experienced nurses retire. State leaders joined forces with the private sector to increase the number of registered nurses in Wisconsin by 24%, recognizing that nursing care improves health outcomes and can help ease medical costs.

“Being a part of UnitedHealthcare, one of the things that we look at is the real need in our health care system and the real need in our communities,” said Ellen Sexton, CEO of UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Wisconsin. “What's great about this grant is the impact it has on the city of Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin.”

More than 70 MATC students received a 100% pass rate for licensure exams in 2018, which is unprecedented for the school’s newest generation of nurses.

“It's really refreshing to know that you're giving more students a chance to go help out that deprivation because ultimately, it's the patients that suffer,” MaLinda said. “I feel like my 7-year-old self is really proud right now.”