Vermont’s congressional delegation joined educators at Northern Vermont University and Vermont Technical College on Wednesday to announce a grant that will expand nursing education in the region.

Senators Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy and Rep. Peter Welch secured more than $240,000 to help seat 60 additional students in the Vermont Tech nursing program at NVU-Lyndon’s campus. The grant will transform an entire hallway into three, new lab spaces to provide in-person and hands-on training to students.

“There’s going to be hospital beds, wall units, IV Poles, IV pumps. Everything to make a realistic-looking lab space that mimics a patient care space,” said Sarah Bilings-Berg, Association Dean of Nursing at Vermont Tech.

An estimated 3,000 front line workers in Vermont are projected to leave the workforce in the next few years.

“With current nurses retiring at a faster than expected rate and Vermont nursing schools only graduating 500 to 600 nurses a year, we are actually losing ground,” Sanders said.

Sanders and his colleagues agree the way to address these shortages is by starting in the classroom, making the program more accessible to students in the NVU-Lyndon community.

“Today, right now, if you look at our job board, we have 27 openings for full time nursing positions,” said Shawn Tester, CEO of Northern Vermont Regional Hospital, which regularly employees graduates of Vermont Tech’s nursing program. He says he is working to fill a dozen more positions in his facility.

Nursing students who plan to to graduate in May say the program expansion will better prepare the state’s future front line workers.

“If we do have this simulation lab, it will give us the experience so that when we do get out on our own, we’ll know what to do,” said Alijah Stone.