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News report of the impacted nursing school problem

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sacramento, ca - her college transcript represents, for most students, something out of a dream: all a's and b's, a 3.62 gpa.

melissa bradford worked to reach that high mark with one goal in mind -- to be accepted into the sacramento state university school of nursing.

but even a 3.62 gpa -- and more importantly, a 3.77 in nursing-specific classes -- has not been good enough.

"it's been very frustrating," said bradford. "i can't even begin to describe the frustrations."

the 22-year-old, fifth-year student at sacramento state has been a volunteer at mercy west hospital, a type of extracurricular activity that is welcomed by nursing schools to help improve candidacy for admission.

she also claims to have scored a 91 out of 100 on the teas exam, a test that factors heavily into the chances for acceptance into nursing school.

"i really couldn't be doing any better than i am right now," said bradford. "i have worked so hard to get where i am right now and i really have nothing to show for it."

bradford said she has applied to the sac state school of nursing three times in two years. she has received three denials.

now, she is applying for a fourth time. with even better grades, she is more confident, but guaranteed of nothing. her story is symbolic of the challenges faced by nurse-hopefuls across california.

california's nursing demand fueled by deteriorating circumstances

"it's a huge problem," said joanne spetz, a professor at uc san francisco specializing in health economics. "there have been cycles of surplus and shortage (in the nursing work force) since world war ii, but none of them has lasted as long as this one."

there are a number of reasons why. the baby-boom generation is aging, requiring more healthcare. also, much of the california nursing workforce is nearing retirement: as of 2006, 45 percent were over 50 years old. only 17 percent were under the age of 35.

"and (there are) not enough nursing school slots to even educate the young people," said spetz.

that is likely the main problem facing people like melissa bradford.

"so many people want to be a nurse now that there's just not enough room in the classroom and the hospitals to accommodate all those people," said bradford.

her theory is more than personal opinion. recent data indicates that nursing classrooms are filling up faster, and the fight to get in is tougher than ever.

in the sacramento region, at least three colleges -- american river, chico state and yuba -- report significant jumps in nursing school applications since 2004.

"we're hearing of people waiting two years before they get to the top of a (nursing school) waiting list," said spetz.

no clear path to improved conditions

the solution may seem obvious: hire more teachers, open up more classrooms, educate more nurses. it is not that simple.

"many of the schools don't even have the money to hire somebody," said spetz.

while nurse salaries are increasingly attractive -- about $73,000 a year on average for those who work in a hospital -- many nursing school teachers aren't paid nearly that much. most universities and community colleges cannot afford to pay it.

that is perhaps the biggest challenge posed by california's nursing shortage.

colleges must convince well-paid, experienced nurses to step out of the hospital, away from a great income, and into the classroom, where they're so desperately needed to teach future nurses.

schools need people who not only can afford to take a pay-cut, but who also have a passion for teaching.

vanessa alvillar believes she might fall into that category.

"being a nursing instructor, i think it'd be wonderful to do that," said alvillar, a nurse at uc davis med center in sacramento.

she's in a position where she might one day be able to cut back hospital hours and salary for hours in the classroom.

"it depends," she said. "if you're in a double-income home, to where your husband is making good money, it could be an option for you. and if it's your passion, i don't think people will go into it for the money."

spetz's research paints a different picture.

state-wide funding increase needed?

"number one is, you gotta keep money in the game," said spetz.

"you have to have the money available so that nursing schools can hire faculty, can do clinical training, and can do what they do."

in 2008, the california legislature appropriated $51.3 million to state nursing schools. but in the wake of a legendary state budget crisis and cash shortfall, there's no telling how much funding will be there for nursing schools in the coming years.

according to spetz, a third of the money for state nursing schools comes from grants that will expire.

"there's gotta be some way to come up with permanent funding," said spetz.

until there is, the stories like that of melissa bradford will likely continue. to those who may be thinking of starting down the nursing school path, bradford has a warning.

"it's absolutely essential that you do well," she said. "you can't screw up, not once."

for her, "screwing up" meant one semester of all b's, knocking her gpa out of the 3.8-4.0 range.

bradford wishes someone would have warned her how easy it is to fall before she had to learn the hard way.

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Edited by TheCommuter

I have heard of 4.0's being turned away so not suprisingly she was turned away with a 3.7. My friend finally got in after 3 years of applying. First it's hard to get into nursing school, now you got to worry about can you land a job when you do eventually get in and graduate. Last year one of my classmates went to nursing school in New York.

Well thats depressing. . this article could easily be written about me!:banghead:

first it's hard to get into nursing school, now you got to worry about can you land a job when you do eventually get in and graduate.

hospitals' relunctance to invest in new grads because it doesn't make dollar sense when there are a plethora of experienced nurses to choose from while nursing schools churn out thousands of graduates each year speaks volume of the inefficiency (waste) in the system.

the california nurse education initiative (04/13/2005) painted such a rosy job picture for nurse-gonna-be's, ignoring the difficulties faced by new grads in transitioning themselves from inexperienced students to working nurses, in addition to projecting a false sense of job security that fuels the number of nurse-wanna-be's:

"california graduates fewer than 6,000 nurses annually, but studies show at least 9,500 new nurses are needed each year to keep pace with demand. currently, the state’s hospitals have a shortage of 14,000 nurses and over 40 percent of applicants for nurse education programs are turned away each year due to lack of program capacity. california’s shortage has national as well as international implications, since almost one-half of nurses working in the state come from outside of california (source: http://gov.ca.gov/press-release/2046/)."

when will the policy makers and the media catch on to the reality that there is no nursing shortage, but a new grad glut in california?

Edited by EM-RN

latebloomer I could not agree with you more! Articles like this make me crazy. Schools in California are already producing too many grads for this market. Hospitals are trying to stay alive right now, so they would rather hire an experienced nurse from across the country than train a new grad from their own community. I feel fortunate that I can relocate but even that has not helped with my 3 month job search.

Schools in California are already producing too many grads for this market.

I tallied up the number of NCLEX takers in California between July 1, 2007 and June 30, 2008, and the grand total amounts to 9102*. Assuming a 10% nursing school drop-out rate, there are more than 10,000 seats for RN-wanna-bes in California. Let's assume further that the average NCLEX passrate for all schools are 85%. There were close to 8,000 new RNs flooding the job market during the 2007-2008 period. Do we still need more nursing school seats when new grads can't find jobs within the state? Consider also that many older nurses are not retiring as planned due to their evaporating 401k/IRA savings, thus are not making room for the new grads.

* The top 3 schools that produced the most number of NCLEX takers during 2007-2008:

1) Samuel Merritt - 355

2) Fresno City College - 303

3) West coast University (LA) - 243

hospitals' relunctance to invest in new grads because it doesn't make dollar sense when there are a plethora of experienced nurses to choose from while nursing schools churn out thousands of graduates each year speaks volume of the inefficiency (waste) in the system.

the california nurse education initiative (04/13/2005) painted such a rosy job picture for nurse-gonna-be's, ignoring the difficulties faced by new grads in transitioning themselves from inexperienced students to working nurses, in addition to projecting a false sense of job security that fuels the number of nurse-wanna-be's:

"california graduates fewer than 6,000 nurses annually, but studies show at least 9,500 new nurses are needed each year to keep pace with demand. currently, the state's hospitals have a shortage of 14,000 nurses and over 40 percent of applicants for nurse education programs are turned away each year due to lack of program capacity. california's shortage has national as well as international implications, since almost one-half of nurses working in the state come from outside of california (source: http://gov.ca.gov/press-release/2046/)."

when will the policy makers and the media catch on to the reality that there is no nursing shortage, but a new grad glut in california?

late bloomer - you called it right. there is no nursing shortage in california. there is a shortage of new rn grad jobs in california. i'm a bsn new grad (w/honors), passed the nclex (first time - 75 questions), and i haven't been able to find a job in cali, with two months of searching. i've submitted approx. 110 apps during that time, and i've gotten one interview.

i guess hospitals would rather pay for high priced travel nurses, than train new grads (at a small fraction of the cost). i've even gone so far as to tell the last few hr reps i've spoken with, that i'll work for nurses aide wages, if they'll just give me training and allow me to get some rn experience.

i never thought earning an rn, would require that i leave the most populous state in the nation to find work.:banghead:

This article concerns me :/ ... first I have a 3.7 and since there a thousands upon thousands applying for the same nursing programs I want to get into, it will be very hard to get in. Right now, my Physiology professor is driving me crazy.. I'm working my behind off in this class..and I'm not even sure if I'll get into nursing school after all this! And to add insult to injury, new grads can't find work?

I think my dream of being a nurse has been shattered.. :cry:

As a new grad RN you're all faced with many challenges. Not only do you have to compete with your peers but you also have to compete with many foreign trained nurses who leave the country and come back to work. Everyone is faced with the difficulty of their dreams dying. There are just way too many graduates and no jobs available, this is a scary situation as that I'm getting ready to apply to the LVN-RN program and I'm already a Bachelors degree holder, which of course doesn't work in my favor when applying except my general education is waved minus the prerequisites.

As a new grad RN you're all faced with many challenges. Not only do you have to compete with your peers but you also have to compete with many foreign trained nurses who leave the country and come back to work. Everyone is faced with the difficulty of their dreams dying. There are just way too many graduates and no jobs available, this is a scary situation as that I'm getting ready to apply to the LVN-RN program and I'm already a Bachelors degree holder, which of course doesn't work in my favor when applying except my general education is waved minus the prerequisites.

If the situation is so bad why are you going into nursing? I find myself asking myself the same question >.

Good luck

Cuban down to the bone. I actually started the nursing change before things really started to get ugly. I don't like to leave things unfinished and of course there's a glimmer of hope as I do currently work in a hospital that does give preference to current staff members. I'm not in the profession for the money, I love what I do and I really love nursing just like most people. Had I made the decision to try nursing now, I don't think I would get into it knowing the current situation but I started doing everything with prerequisites, CNA course, LVN etc back in late 2004.

Cuban down to the bone. I actually started the nursing change before things really started to get ugly. I don't like to leave things unfinished and of course there's a glimmer of hope as I do currently work in a hospital that does give preference to current staff members. I'm not in the profession for the money, I love what I do and I really love nursing just like most people. Had I made the decision to try nursing now, I don't think I would get into it knowing the current situation but I started doing everything with prerequisites, CNA course, LVN etc back in late 2004.

Glad you're in the profession because you like it :), I want to be a nurse because I really want it too. Well if you look at it that way, every profession has no promise right now. The medical field is the most promising and its still going down the gutter, I was doing public relations and switched to nursing. Public relations is even worst off than nursing :uhoh3:, I wont be working as a nurse until 3 years from now, so I think the economy will be better. Oh and I have no preference where to work, I'll work even the "bad" nursing jobs that others don't like. I don't necessarily want to clinic or hospital positions only. I can't change my major again, so I'm sticking to this and finish my pre-reqs, I really want to do this. Wish me luck! :)

I find this article pretty interesting. As someone who was living in San Diego, I was placed on several waiting lists and one associates program told me my wait would be 3-4 yrs long. Rather than wait I just applied to a program out of state, was accepted and I started it back in September 09...and now I only have 9 months left in the program to get a BSN. I will not return to California until I have at least 1 year experience if not more...there is a high demand for nurses who are "plug and play" but I didnt trust California at all when it came to educating me, and training me. Theres simply too much competition.

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