GVSU implements a new holistic approach to nursing applicants

GVL / Luke Holmes - Nursing Students finish up some work after class in the Center for Health Sciences building downtown.

GVL / Luke Holmes – Nursing Students finish up some work after class in the Center for Health Sciences building downtown.

James Kilborn

This fall, Grand Valley State University’s Kirkhof College of Nursing will implement a new holistic admissions process that focuses on increasing student diversity, emphasizing different backgrounds and life experiences with the hope that it will produce a more enriching learning experience. These changes follow a nationwide trend of added emphasis on diversity and race in the workplace and work towards producing nurses capable of providing quality care in changing workforce environments. 

Kristin Norton, Director of Kirkhof College of Nursing’s Office of Student Services, states that these changes in admissions are supported by the Association of Colleges of Nursing and are being implemented in universities across the country. 

“Holistic admission review processes are being successfully and more widely used in other health profession admission processes,” Norton said via email. “The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) supports the practice and is challenging its member institutions to develop their own. Its aim is to produce a well-prepared health care workforce by assembling a diverse student body – diverse not only in race, ethnicity, and gender, but also in experience, socioeconomic status, and perspective,” she said. Norton continues, “Our admissions process to date relied most heavily on the academic success of an applicant. We saw a need to develop a process that still ensures students’ academic preparedness but takes other equally important factors into account as well.”

She also emphasizes that students are not considered for admission on academic standing alone, as a background that provides unique talents and perspectives along with strong interpersonal and other “soft skills” would set candidates apart.

“An holistic admission process considers each applicant’s unique life experiences and personal attributes alongside traditional measures of academic achievement”, Norton said. “The process is designed to allow us to consider a broad range of factors reflecting the applicant’s academic readiness, contribution to the incoming class, and potential for success both in school and later as a professional.  Nurses must possess a unique skill set; it’s both an art and a science. The science side speaks for itself. The art side requires a level of competency in leadership, problem solving, interpersonal communication, decision making, intercultural awareness, and empathy/compassion for each patient-to name a few.”

Norton states that the ever-changing demographics of the United States plays a part in this decision, as hospitals and other medical practices increasingly desire qualified individuals who are aware of cultural differences and customs. 

“There is an understanding at the local and national level that nursing students should possess the background, qualities and skills to provide culturally-effective care and meet the needs of a rapidly diversifying patient population,” Norton said. “Holistic review can help us identify applicant experiences and attributes that will contribute to a more effective nursing workforce.”