Jessica Giannone, General Assignment Reporter:
As the demand for nurses increases, it can be difficult to “fill the bucket,” according to Marcia Proto, the executive director of the Connecticut League for Nursing.
When it comes to the increase of awarded bachelor’s degrees in the Connecticut State University System over the past five years, which is a higher number than any other institution of higher education in the state, Proto said CLN really has to do “some great planning” to accommodate the growing number of nursing students.
“We’re trying to do everything we can to make the lives of students as easy as possible,” said Proto.
According to the CSUS website, the number of students enrolled in nursing programs at CSUS institutions, including bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, has increased by 40 percent between 2004 and 2010. These numbers are considered to be a reflection of the CSUS’ response to dealing with a nursing shortage in the state.
The site says nursing is among the most popular undergraduate majors at Southern and Western.
Lisa Rebeschi, chairperson and associate professor for the Department of Nursing, said the reputation of the department makes it unique, and it as promoted itself.
“Southern has positioned itself nicely,” said Proto. “It has a nice comprehensive array of programs.”
Rebeschi said the most beneficial parts of the nursing program are the resources, which include the latest state of the art training resources, such as simulation technology, and expert faculty.
She said the department is hopeful they can contribute, not only for the needs of nursing students, but for nurse educators as well.
When in the process of coping with the increasing demands for nurses, Proto said all the schools have to strategize. Among the issues, she said there is also a faculty shortage of nursing educators.
Rebeschi said the nursing department is limited based on available resources, and their number one barrier is the faculty shortage. She said a “close second” is the availability of clinical training sites, which Proto said is where most of the learning is done.
Rebeschi said it is competitive not only for space and clinical placements, but for acceptance into the nursing programs. She said the four-year undergraduate nursing program for a bachelor’s degree is accepting 80 students out of the 140 that normally apply, and the Accelerated Career Entry program, which is even more competitive, is only accepting 30.
The 12-month ACE program is for students who already hold a B.A. or B.S. degree in any field, and consists mostly of graduates from other schools, according to Rebeschi.
She said most students who don’t get into the undergraduate program stay and pursue a different major, but have the option to re-apply.
Maxine Gleason, a junior nursing major at Southern, said if she doesn’t get into the undergraduate program, she plans to switch her major to public health and go back to school to become a registered nurse.
The department has around 200 pre-licensed nursing students, according to Rebeschi, who said there are “probably” three students for every one “seat” available in the program.
She said the turning away of nurses isn’t just a state or university issue, but a national one.
“Unless we meet those areas,” said Rebeschi, “we’ll be unable [to accommodate for the students].”
She said the department has provided a strategy for addressing the issue.
Southern is in the process of awaiting the approval of an Ed. D in Nursing Education program in collaboration with Western, which is expected to “tackle the shortage” in nurse educators, as the CSUS website puts it.
Rebeschi said the program would involve students having the option to fulfill courses credits at both universities, allowing the sharing of resources between the universities.
“It is a very important initiative for us,” said Rebeschi.
She said continuing the approval process for the program, which is anticipated to begin later this year, according to the CSUS website, is the department’s primary goal.
She added that the universities’ combined faculty and resources put together a “really strong” proposal, and partnership is very important to the department.
Proto said CLN is planning on doing a survey to gather more specific information on nurses in Connecticut so they can have a basis to evaluate what needs to be done. She said CLN has to have a good idea of what they need so they can effectively work with schools.
CLN has predicted that nursing levels are expected to be 57 percent below the necessary number to meet the state’s needs by 2020.
“We need to know,” said Proto.