ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Albany Medical Center and Russell Sage College have announced a new partnership that hopes to create a local nursing pipeline. The initiative comes as nursing shortages have impacted hospitals and health care systems across the country.

“The nursing shortages are really acute now. There’s a short-term problem that’s serious, but there’s a really a long-term problem that’s serious and so we’re trying to address that,” said Russell Sage College President Christopher Ames.

This partnership builds on their existing relationship, which has allowed Sage nursing students to complete thousands of clinical hours within the Albany Med system, giving them important hands-on experience.

“It was pretty incredible, because I think I started my pediatric rotations here and then starting critical care is where I knew I found what I loved,” said Rachel Treers, an RN at Albany Med and recent Russell Sage grad.

It’s the kind of experience Russell Sage graduates say was vital, “Having that initial practice and then going on the floor, you’re not starting from scratch, you actually have an indication of what you should be doing, and not just on a mannequin, but on a real life person,” said RN Kristina Marie Villajuan.

She adds that the experience helped her and others feel comfortable in making the jump to the hospital after graduation, especially after being able to connect with Albany Med staff during clinical assignments.

“Maybe you’ve built a connection too, with being friends with a nurse or a PCA whoever you worked with while you were on clinicals over here,” she said.

The hands-on clinical experience builds on what Sage nursing students learn in the classroom, which includes time in simulation labs.

“It’s a terrific program that really focuses on full nursing skills in all fields but also responding to current demands,” Ames said, highlighting how the nursing program now highlights the importance of telehealth, something that’s become a vital tool in nursing since the beginning of the pandemic.

Ames said the partnership is also hoping to open the door for grants in the future that could help create a pipeline between high school students and the hospital, with prospective nursing students getting their education from Russell Sage.

The pipeline also allows existing Albany Med employees to get a discount to receive graduate nursing programs at the college, “I had been interested since undergrad in pursuing advanced practice and I’m currently starting in the program, so I’m excited to continue working at Albany Med and go back to Sage, which both are considered like a home to me,” Treers, who’s back at Sage for grad school, said.

Albany Med has also partnered with Hudson Valley Community College and Maria College in an effort to bolster the local nursing pipeline.

According to the Albany Med, these opportunities have helped the health care system recruit over 150 college-grad nurses in the first half of this year.