Not enough nurses

Jess Hodge

There are an expected 500,000 nursing jobs available by 2022, due to growing demand of the nursing profession. Another 500,000 are expected to open up due to retiring nurses. Grand Valley State University students are preparing for these opportunities.

Coming in at the second most popular major among GVSU freshmen, next to the ever-popular “undecided major,” nursing is a competitive field, declared by 347 freshmen from the class of 2019. The program puts students through a rigorous and challenging curriculum that provides them with all the training and preparation they will need for the difficult major. Students can declare nursing as their major, but not everyone will be accepted into the highly selective program.

Kirkhof College of Nursing Dean Cynthia McCurren has overseen the department since November 2007 and has noticed incoming students take an increased interest in nursing.

“The interest in nursing as a degree at GVSU has been very robust for a number of years,” McCurren said. “With a large number of applicants, it is competitive.”

She reported that there are about 115 to 170 applications per admission review period. Of those applicants, only 80 are accepted into the program. This means that 30 to 53 percent of students that apply are turned away from the program.

The selection process can be a lengthy one, requiring students to successfully complete coursework before even applying for upper division nursing. Other criteria for being accepted includes meeting a prerequisite GPA, an interview performance score and their Laker score, which is determined by the number of credits a student has earned at GVSU.

“We work very hard to ensure an equitable selection process,” McCurren said. “Every pre-nursing student is assigned a professional adviser to work alongside (them) for guidance.”

Nursing major Payton Nothdurft, 20, was lucky enough to get accepted into the program her first time applying.

“(If) you get an interview there is an informational session they hold to help you prepare for it,” Nothdurft said. “The first 20 minutes or so of your actual interview is completing a worksheet which is a set of tasks; you are to order them in order of most to least important, which shows the interviewers how you prioritize. Then you have a limited time to answer four or five questions during the interview.”

A large reason not everyone is accepted is due to faculty shortages, as well as limited access to sites for clinical placements.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing reported that during 2014-2015 national enrollment, 68,938 applicants were turned down due to “insufficient number of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, clinical preceptors and budget constraints.” More often than not, the applicants are qualified; there is just not an adequate number of faculty members or budget to accept them into the program.

The KCON has tried to offset the number of qualified applicants being rejected by hiring more faculty members and planning to build a new building for health profession majors to hold classes in. However, these fixes are merely Band-Aids for the larger problem at hand.

“It does not address the fundamental problem of personnel and clinical sites,” McCurren said. “We have expanded our undergraduate and graduate education since 2007, but are at capacity at this time.”

She said the university is always fostering their partnerships with health care organizations and trying to find alternative forms of teaching basic nursing skills to include activities that simulate nursing in the real world.

“GVSU’s Kirkhof College of Nursing is not unlike nearly every nursing program across the nation,” McCurren said. “The demand exceeds capacity-qualified applicants are often turned away.”

McCurren does offer some sort of consolation to those who do not get in, noting that most are admitted on their second try.