Nursing program expands its enrollment

Melanie Gaball

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Dr. Marianne Hattar-Pollara, Chair for the Department of Nursing, looks over the blueprints for the remodeling and expansion of the nursing department which is anticipated to be completed by the end of the spring semester. Photo credit: John Saringo-Rodriguez/ Daily Sundial

The Department of Nursing will be accepting more applicants into their highly competitive Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program, along with building a new department office.

The Nursing Department, which became independent from the Department of Health Sciences in 2011, has been working out of small offices on the second floor of Jacaranda Hall but will be transitioning to a newly constructed office space at the other end of the building.

“Since the Nursing Department started and moved from being a program in Health Sciences Department, it needed a space for the department,” said Nursing Department Chair Dr. Marianne Hattar-Pollara.

“A proposal for space was written and submitted to campus, and the construction will be completed hopefully by the end of spring semester,” she said, adding the provost’s office coordinated the financing for the remodel.

Along with expanding in square footage, the program will be growing in regards to the number of students accepted into their programs including the Accelerated BSN program, and the RN (Registered Nurse) to BSN program.

“The need for expansion is because we are committed to meeting the healthcare needs of the people in our state as well as those in our community,” Hattar said. “We have increased the number of students in the Accelerated BSN from 36 when it started to 40 currently, and now we are moving it to 60.”

Silva Amirkhanian, who is in her second semester in the Accelerated BSN program, said she was fortunate enough to get into the program after completing her undergraduate work at CSUN.

“I was originally wait-listed and (even though there were) over 300 applicants, I was fortunate enough to be picked off the waitlist,”  Amirkhanian said. “It’s been a very exciting experience thus far. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. It’s tough; it’s tiring but it’s fun at the same time.”

The program, which gets more than 300 applicants a semester, is also expanding in order to meet the healthcare needs of underrepresented minorities, Hattar said.

The program was recently a recipient of a $50,000  Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Grant, which creates leadership opportunities for underrepresented minorities by providing money for scholarships to those accepted into the Accelerated BSN program.

The foundation’s hope is to get students, particularly minorities with non-nursing degrees, through nursing school and into the workplace in an effort to respond to the current nursing shortage, according to its website.

“The department expansion is just the first step. The next step, increasing the number of students, is going to be dependent on how much space we have for our simulation lab and skills lab,” Hattar said.

Dr. Samira Moughrabi, an assistant professor for the nursing program who was hired in 2011, said the department is also looking to hire more faculty.

“We have been approved to hire three more faculty members.” Moughrabi said. “We are also focused on promoting part-time faculty to full-time.”

Many of the students are in the RN to BSN program, which allows students who are already registered nurses to enhance their education with a bachelors degree. Those students are working as nurses three to four days a week, which can make scheduling difficult, Moughrabi said.

“We try to make it so they only have to (come to campus) one or two days a week, depending on the track they are on, ”Moughrabi said. “Scheduling can be difficult when we have a lot of part-time faculty.”

There is a severe shortage of faculty in California and throughout the U.S., not only at CSUN, Hattar said.

“We really have to  move into developing faculty and giving them the credentials so they can teach,” she said.

“I developed a grant proposal (which was approved) for developing faculty who have a masters degree and a baccalaureate, and are seasoned clinicians but don’t know how to operate a classroom,” Hattar said. “This certificate can help them develop the knowledge and expertise in developing very good teachers, while maintaining their clinical currency. “

The CSUN Nursing Department recently got the Board of Registered Nursing to come evaluate the program extensively for the first time and passed without any recommendations.

“It was very impressive that the loose ends were tied in such a way that we looked very comprehensive,” Hattar said. “We provide excellence in nursing education and we all work together for that interest.”

Moughrabi said that since she has been a part of the program, she has not seen anyone fail, and she added the only time someone has had to leave the program before graduation was because of health or family issues.

“We have never had someone leave because of failure,” Moughrabi said.

The Nursing Department, which gets between 80 to 100 calls per day to ask questions about the program, is currently developing a Masters in Nursing program, Hattar said.

“I think its great that (the program is expanding). I did my undergrad at CSUN so I have this loyalty to CSUN,” Amirkhanian said. “It’s nice to expand and have more nurses come out of CSUN, especially with BSN degrees, because with the competition for getting jobs in today’s market, (employers hiring nurses) like everyone to have BSNs.”

The department will be reviewed to get its national accreditation in the fall.