The continuing regeneration of the River Valley Community College nursing program is taking a significant step this month, and that’s promising news for the western part of New Hampshire, including this region.

On Dec. 27, River Valley announced it had received the necessary approvals to launch a licensed practical nurse program, beginning Jan. 21. In one sense, it’s actually a re-launch, as a loss of accreditation for River Valley’s nursing program in 2013 had led it to ax its then-one-year LPN track. The Claremont-based community college, which has satellite campuses in Keene and Lebanon, worked hard to restore the nursing program, and by 2016 had regained accreditation for its registered nurse program.

That development and also the full accreditation last fall of Keene State College’s nursing program following its own stumbles earlier in the decade were welcome additions to the effort of area providers to address a shortage of registered nurses.

Like all aspects of medical care, however, the nursing profession has evolved considerably and there is an acute need for nurses at all of the profession’s certification levels. LPNs serve a critical role in the nursing care continuum between the entry-level licensed nursing assistants and the even more extensively trained registered nurses. In the release announcing the launch of the LPN program, Dr. Eileen Glover, the River Valley nursing professor who is the LPN program director, cited the importance of the LPN role in patient care and said the program is intended to meet the significant demand for LPNs in New Hampshire from providers “looking for a new stream of employees,” as well as the demand from those — especially LNAs — seeking to attain the higher level of certification. The program is designed for up to 32 students and can be completed in three semesters.

When River Valley announced it was developing the LPN program last July, its plan was to offer the program at its Keene and Lebanon academic centers once it received approval. Initially, however, it will be offered at only its Claremont campus, but Glover told the Valley News the LPN program would expand to Keene and Lebanon in January 2021.

In Keene, that may prove even more beneficial. Not only might it help address the LPN component of nursing shortages in the region — a survey of The Sentinel’s and other job postings showed over 50 LPN openings in the Keene area and, as the human resources director at Lebanon’s Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital observed to the Valley News, “LPNs from community colleges tend to remain committed to their area.” — but expanding to Keene, now that River Valley’s Keene presence has relocated onto the Keene State College campus, should provide ways to leverage the new LPN program for the benefit of both institutions and their students.

Congratulations are due River Valley for continuing to build strength in its nursing offerings with its new LPN program, and we look forward to its expansion to Keene.