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How and When Will More Nursing School Applicants be Accommodated?

Posted Apr 01 2009 12:18am

Once again, a painful truth hurts more because it has become personal. What now? It’s the shortage of places in nursing programs for qualified applicants. My friend, Sue, has been a middle school teacher for over 20 years. About 8 years ago she was diagnosed with a life threatening medical condition that required vigorous and debilitating treatments. The treatments did their job and Sue is now hale and hardy.

Her two-year up close and personal experience on the receiving end of medical magic got Sue thinking that maybe she’d like working in the medical field. Back in the classroom, however, she was consumed by the myriad responsibilities that go along with teaching, putting the idea of changing careers on the back burner. Then, a series of administration changes at her school brought about a decidedly unpleasant atmosphere at work that made the decision to switch to nursing an easy one.

Sue has two master’s degrees but not much in the way of a science background, so while still working full-time, she took on a heavy science curriculum in night classes at her local university, acquiring the prerequisites she’d need before applying to nursing school. Sue is nothing if not conscientious, so studying occupied the bulk of her time away from teaching and she earned A grades in almost every class, with a high B or two along the way.

Of course, Sue made a plan. She identified nursing programs that were a good fit for her and began the application process. This was to be her last year of teaching; she’d use the summer to relocate and be ready to start nursing school in the fall. She is single, self-supporting financially, with no immediate family to depend upon should she find herself in a bind. Planning ahead for medical coverage while in school was vital, so that was a big (and limiting) factor in her decision to apply to certain schools in certain states.

In an email last week Sue shared the news that she was not accepted into her first-choice program. There were 450 applicants for 45 openings. I’d be willing to bet that plenty of the 405 applicants left out in the cold, so to speak, are equally as highly qualified as Sue.

I’m sure that in many ways Sue’s story is no different than that of others who are traveling the same path, hoping for a chance to have a nursing career. But, knowing her as I do, I want what she wants and, for once, I’d like something to be easy for her; for all the puzzle pieces to fall into place without her having to jump through hoops and needing to change plans at the last minute. She has fallback plans and she’ll pursue them but how nice it would’ve been to have everything settled early on.

And, the 400-plus left to do no more than dream of being a nurse at a time when this country is desperate for their talents—well, that’s just sad.

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