In response to the nursing shortage afflicting California and the nation, CSUN launched a new program this month offering an accelerated bachelor’s degree in nursing.
The program is targeted at people who possess a bachelor’s degree in another field and are interested in switching to a career in nursing. Students in the program will spend time in the classroom and in local participating hospitals for a total of 56 units.
“It’s very competitive,” program director Wendy Taylor said. “Most people don’t realize how much science goes into (nursing).”
The current crop of 18 students, selected from more than 70 applicants, include three who are foreign-born.
Nursing student Olena Akhmetchyna, originally from the Ukraine, feels honored to be in the program. After earning her bachelor’s degree in liberal arts, Akhmetchyna was struggling to find a good job. When she randomly heard about the program in a grocery store check-out line, she decided to apply.
Leah Ngure moved to the United States from Kenya and had been living in Oregon when she decided to become a nurse. CSUN was the only California school Ngure applied to, and she was drawn by the diversity of the campus.
Others in the program are originally from the San Fernando Valley and will now be able to stay here.
Sonia Reiter and her husband, both CSUN graduates, were hoping to buy a house in the area. Working as a phlebotomist before entering the nursing program, Reiter wasn’t sure she’d be able to start a family here for financial reasons. With a future career in nursing, Reiter will be able to stay in the valley.
While the surplus of nursing positions and the money to be made in the field has attracted most students to the program, they are put in a financial bind over the duration of the program.
Because of the heavy workload compacted into a short amount of time, the students are required to quit their jobs to ensure their commitment to the program. Many students even moved back in with their parents for the duration of the program.
“No joke about it, you’re broke,” said Reiter, who is relying on her husband’s salary and her savings for the time being.
Akhmetchyna has also felt the financial crunch. Living solely on her husband’s salary while paying for daycare for her children hasn’t been easy.
The group that started this summer is functioning as a trial run to make sure the program runs smoothly, Taylor said. There have been a few hiccups getting the program off the ground.
“I’m already 45 chapters behind,” Reiter said about her books arriving two weeks late.
The program has to move quickly to fit 15 weeks of regular semester content into 11 summer weeks. Students are in class for 35 hours each week. “You kind of live here,” Akhmetchyna said.
Even so “it’s all worth it,” Akhmetchyna said. “I’m so excited (the program) has started.”
“Some people spend two years getting their RN at a community college, then do an RN to BSN program for two more years,” said Reiter. “If you already have a BS, (the advanced nursing degree program) is the only way to go.”
Students in the program are well aware of the national nursing shortage. “Even abroad people know of (the shortage),” Ngure said.
Nursing shortages in California and throughout the nation do not stem from a lack of interest in the profession, but from an inadequate number of schools able to meet the demand. There is also a lack of qualified nursing faculty, Taylor said.
In 2005, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced a three-year plan to commit $90 million to expand nursing schools statewide.
With immigration reform being debated in the U.S. Senate, the shortage of nurses in California may become more severe. According to a recent study by Penn State University, foreign nurses make up 18 percent of the 230,000 registered nurses in California.
CSUN is not the only university helping to fill the need for more nursing schools. Last year, UCLA reopened its nursing program and many other universities are doing the same.
Starting in 2008, 18 students will be accepted into the program each summer and fall. At the end of the 15 months, students will be eligible to take the RN licensing exam and apply for the Public Health Nurse certificate needed to start a career in nursing.
Other than a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated field, students hoping to enter the program will need an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher, and must have completed the prerequisite science courses within the past five years.