Nursing programs continue to raise requirements in their admissions processes, and less nursing students are graduating in a timely matter as a result.
An associate degree in nursing is being phased out, requiring nurses to obtain a bachelor’s degree by 2020, despite Utah hospitals’ need for registered nurses. A National Nursing Workforce Study found that 50% of registered nurses that are 50 years or older will retire in the next 10-15 years.
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing emphasizes that “hospitals hoping to earn Magnet status must provide plans to increase their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) workforce to 80% by 2020,” according to their website. Magnet status is an award demonstrating which hospital’s nurses provide quality care, with potential patients able to see this award.
Besides completing general education requirements, students seeking an associate degree are now required to complete difficult prerequisites to qualify for admission to nursing programs. Some prerequisites at Salt Lake Community College include College Biology and lab, Human Anatomy and lab, and Elementary Chemistry and lab.
Students must also achieve a high score on the HESI exam, which serves as an entrance exam at the college.
SLCC students admit to struggling to complete strenuous nursing prerequisites. Kevin Guillaume, who is studying pre-nursing, questions the need for some of these courses as prerequisites.
“I work with [registered] nurses, they don’t … use microbiology or chemistry,” he says. “I want to go into surgical nursing, and after shadowing them I know that these aren’t necessary for their daily activities. I understand that they want us to be well-rounded nurses, but it makes it more difficult.”
Once accepted into the nursing program at SLCC, students complete two years of nursing coursework, training in the Healing Arts Lab and clinicals at local hospitals. Because of the general education requirements and the nursing program requirements, it could take a student four years to graduate, assuming they are a full-time student.
In 2011, when SLCC changed the admission criteria for its nursing program, Loredana Haeger, then the dean of the School of Health Sciences, spoke with the Salt Lake Tribune about SLCC’s program and whether it’s considered a highly competitive nursing school.
“The goal of the new system is to ensure students are academically prepared, as well as committed and well-suited to a profession when they enter high-demand health programs,” according to the article.
Debbie Jackson, an associate professor of nursing at SLCC, knows that these prerequisites are challenging and that the nursing program can be demanding in its admission requirements.
“Prerequisites are a necessary evil in health education. Students who enter healthcare need a strong understanding of science, math, and the ability to communicate well with others. The prerequisites are used to give students that strong footing,” says Jackson. She also mentioned that most, if not all students, in the program are planning to continue their education.
After passing the registered nurse board exam, The NCLEX, nurses will be required to attend a four-year university. Most SLCC students choose to transfer to The University of Utah to complete their bachelor’s degree.
“My goal is to complete a nurse practitioner graduate program,” Guillaume says, noting that higher levels of education can equate to higher pay. “I know my BSN is necessary both to qualify for [graduate] school and to give my patients the best care.”
Some local Salt Lake City hospitals and nursing homes are offering large sign-on bonuses as an incentive for nurses to join their teams. A job listing from Inspiration Home Health and Hospice is currently offering a $1,000 sign-on bonus for a registered nurse with only one year of experience preferred.