Dalton State College fall graduates add to nursing workforce


Dalton State Health Profession’s students perform a simulation in the college’s health simulation lab. The lab provides opportunities for students to experience real-life patient scenarios in a hospital-like setting, complete with hospital beds and interactive manikins.  

Dalton State College celebrated 319 graduates, including 131 nursing students, in its fall 2023 commencement ceremonies. The college, in partnership with the University System of Georgia, is addressing a critical regional and statewide demand for nurses through program expansions, increased cohort capacity and improved hands-on learning opportunities that produce more career-ready healthcare professionals. 

Georgia is expected to see a 21% shortage of registered nurses by 2035, the second-highest estimated shortage among 10 other states, according to the Georgia Nurses Association.  

“Dalton State plays a vital role in meeting workforce needs of our region and the state, and our students are answering the call to be leaders in a variety of fields, including healthcare,” Dr. John Fuchko, Dalton State College president, said. “I am grateful to our dedicated faculty, our community partners, the University System of Georgia, and our elected officials for their support of quality academic programs and hands-on learning opportunities for our students that will help address this urgent need for our state.”  

Dalton State saw a 25.1% enrollment increase in its nursing programs from fall 2022 to fall 2023 with 309 students enrolled. Dalton State’s School of Health Professions houses four nursing degree programs: Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN), LPN/Paramedic Bridge Pathway to ASN, and Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).  

The LPN/Paramedic Pathway is designed for working healthcare professionals seeking to continue their education. The accelerated program allows LPN and Paramedic healthcare professionals to earn their ASN in three semesters.  

Dalton State launched the program at its main campus in summer 2021 and expanded to the Mountain Campus in Ellijay in 2023. Due to the program’s high demand by LPNs, Paramedics and clinical facilities, the college has increased cohort capacity to meet workforce needs. Grants funded by the Georgia Legislature and allocated through the University System of Georgia in 2023 and 2024 supported development and expansion of a skills lab at the Mountain Campus. These investments, totaling $177,776, have increased enrollment capacity in the college’s ASN program by 231 percent since 2018, and the college now serves 150 new ASN students each year. 

“Expansion of the program allowed us to accept more Bridge students, produce more RNs and better serve the nursing education needs of the greater Ellijay area and Northwest Georgia,” said Dr. Gina Kertulis-Tartar, dean of the School of Health Professions. 

In addition, a $361,000 Congressionally Directed Spending project has provided new equipment for the Health Professions Simulation Lab at Dalton State’s main campus this year. The lab provides opportunities for students to experience real-life patient scenarios in a hospital-like setting, complete with hospital beds and interactive manikins.