DENVER (KDVR) — Metropolitan State University of Denver is expanding its programs in an effort to help fill the need for thousands of health care workers in Colorado.

According to the Colorado Hospital Association, Colorado will be facing a shortage of 64,000 health care workers by 2026.

Shortages are enormous,” said Emily Matuszewicz, director of the Health Institute at MSU Denver. “Where are we going to get those health care workers?” 

Matuszewicz and her team believe they have the answer.

“We think our students have the capacity to kind of revolutionize health in the state of Colorado,” she said.

MSU turns away half of potential nursing students

However, MSU said it must turn away more than half of its qualified nursing students because of a lack of space and resources to teach them. 

“What we’re seeing is demand in our nursing program and our social work program. We can’t offer up all of our students spaces in our programs and we want to,” Matuszewicz said. 

MSU is currently building a brand new, 18,000-square-foot simulation lab to help ease challenges associated with getting students into clinical placements. The lab will feature home, clinic and hospital settings with life-like medical manikins. 

“With a high fidelity manikin, you can do it again and again and again and really master those skills,” Matuszewicz said. “Thing is that the technology has evolved so much, it’s amazing how you can simulate real-life situations, and that’s what we aim to do in these simulation labs — to make it as real as possible so that they get really strong skills before they go out into actual practice.”

The lab is scheduled to open in 2024. MSU is also seeking funding for an expansion project to add a 70,000-square-foot addition to its existing health care classrooms. 

“We could increase by 32% the students that we are accepting into our programs, and they can begin to fill those desperately needed shortages,” Matuszewicz said.