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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Enrollment demands hard for Nursing School to meet

    It has been almost a year since the legislature approved an ambitious plan to increase the number of nursing school graduates to 2,000 a year by 2010, but UA officials say there is a limit on how many nurses it can train.

    Arizona is currently in a health care crisis, as it is below the per capita average for the nation. The state has 606 nurses per 100,000 residents, compared to the national average of 784 nurses per 100,000, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

    “”You can’t learn nursing through simulations.””

    – Carol Mangold
    clinical affairs coordinator for the UA nursing program

    As the state’s population continues to grow older, the demand for trained nurses is expected to skyrocket.

    To address the needs of the state, Arizona’s legislature set aside $20 million to fund a five-year program to increase the number of nurses. The program the legislature approved last year created Arizona’s Partnership in Nursing Education, which is designed to double the state’s nursing education program enrollment by hiring additional nursing faculty.

    But nursing officials say the legislature’s ambitious plan contains a serious flaw that may prove to be a ceiling on how many nurses Arizona colleges can train in any given year. The program fails to address how to increase the capacity of clinical rotations of hospitals, required to obtain a nursing degree.

    In addition to classroom instruction, students are required to perform a set number of hours in clinical rotations. During clinical rotations, students learn under the direct supervision of experienced registered nurses who serve as preceptors at a nearby hospital.

    There is a limit on how many student nurses a hospital can offer shifts in clinical rotations, said Bridget O’Gara, the vice president of communications for the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association.

    “”It’s a catch-22,”” said O’Gara of the current nursing crisis.

    She said as colleges and universities increase the number of students they serve, neighboring hospitals have to become creative on how to accommodate more students.

    “”With more students, we have to use creative scheduling and offer shifts at nontraditional times,”” O’Gara said.

    Students like Sarah D. Taylor, a pre-nursing sophomore, are worried about not being admitted into the College of Nursing or being waitlisted because of low GPAs.

    “”For me, it’s kind of intimidating because (the nursing college) gives you all these statistics (about getting into the college,)”” Taylor said.

    Judith Brown, director of development and community affairs in the UA nursing program, said the UA has increased the size of the program over the last three years. But the increase in the funding was independent of the state’s Arizona Partnership in Nursing Education program.

    She said the UA has received approval for funding from the program, but has not received the actual funding.

    Carol Mangold, the clinical affairs coordinator for the UA’s nursing program, said the program had used creative ways to find shifts for students, including introducing clinical rotations during the summer session.

    Mangold said the dean of the UA College of Nursing, Marjorie Isenberg, has raised $1.5 million to expand the instructional facilities for the nursing program.

    While the UA offers some in-class simulations, she warned against relying on simulations in lieu of hands-on experience.

    “”You can’t learn nursing through simulations,”” Mangold said.

    Mangold noted the UA is working with University Physicians Healthcare Hospital at Kino Campus and a new hospital in Oro Valley to offer clinical rotations in the future.

    Brown said the UA’s nursing program still has hundreds of students on a waiting list, but clinical rotations are only one of the ceilings limiting how many nursing students the program can accept.

    She said the program is also in need of qualified nursing instructors, who are in critical demand across the nation.

    Brown said the Arizona Board of Regents approved a doctorate of nursing practice degree last month, a program intended to increase the number of qualified nursing faculty.

    The UA already has a doctoral degree with a major in nursing, Brown said.

    -Ariel Serafin contributed to this report

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