GV nursing program at limit

GVL / Archive
Student nurse Ashlee Olsen checks out a patient in the Health Services Building.

GVL / Archive Student nurse Ashlee Olsen checks out a patient in the Health Services Building.

Ellie Phillips

Grand Valley State University’s nursing program operates at full capacity and continues to produce graduates for a professional field in need of more employees. With the baby boomers moving out of the workforce and into retirement, the demand for nurses has increased to more than 135,000, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

“The nursing shortage has been a growing challenge since the beginning of the 21st century,” said Cynthia McCurren, professor and dean of the Kirkhof College of Nursing at GVSU. “KCON has more than doubled enrollment since 2005.”

The university is not only preparing students to meet economic demands, but it’s also training them for higher positions of leadership. In 2009, KCON also implemented a new D.N.P. program that will prepare nurses for doctoral-level work. The M.S.N. program prepares students for advanced clinical nurse leadership roles, care coordinator work and jobs as quality improvement specialists.

With degrees offered at the varying levels, KCON has the largest Bachelor of Science in nursing program in West Michigan. The program is currently at capacity with around 225 to 250 graduates a year and about 100 students in the graduate programs.

“Last fall there were 364 students who were fully admitted to the undergraduate nursing programs,” said Philip Batty, director of Institutional Analysis at GVSU. “There were another 838 who had declared their intent to enter nursing but had not yet earned admission.”

Complications to taking on more students include competition for clinical placement sites and adequate numbers of qualified faculty. KCON currently has over 30 tenured or tenure-track faculty with Ph.D.s or D.N.P.s (Doctor of Nursing Practice) and an additional 16 instructors serving as affiliate faculty with at least a Master of Science in Nursing degree.

Despite these issues, KCON will continue to enroll students at maximum capacity.

“Interest in the GVSU nursing program is significant,” McCurren said. “At the undergraduate level, we consistently have more applicants than we can enroll.

The upside of this high level of competition is that the graduating nursing students from GVSU complete their degrees with high GPAs and success on licensure exams.

“The average GPA for students completing a BSN degree in 2011-12 was 3.46,” Batty said.

The GVSU pass rates for licensure exams are equal to or exceeding those of national averages. For undergraduate students taking the exam for the first time, the passing rate is between 90 and 95 percent. For first-time attempts by graduate students on advanced examinations, GVSU’s pass rate is 92 to 100 percent.

For more information on the GVSU nursing programs, visit www.gvsu.edu/kcon.

For more information on the nursing shortage, visit the American Association of Colleges of Nursing site at www.aacn.nche.edu/media-relations/fact-sheets/nursing-shortage.
[email protected]