In 1937, SDSU graduated its first class of nursing students. Today, despite challenges that nurses face in the workplace and an overall shortage, the SDSU nursing program is still going strong.
The program was recently re-accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education through 2011. Reports of a state-wide nursing shortage have given SDSU’s nursing department a boost in recent years.
“We have admitted students to our full capacity and then some,” Dean Roberta Olson said. “We are a strong program and are pleased with the numbers.” Olson said that one reason the program has been able to admit more students is that more students are qualified and that private funds have also kicked in.
Olson said that 93 percent of SDSU’s nursing graduates will pass their registered nurses exam on the first try.
Registered nurses assess patients, dispense medications and start intravenous drugs. Nursing aides, on the other hand, take a patient’s weight, blood pressure and temperature, among other needs. They cannot perform a critical assessment.
Nursing students take their general classes, such as chemistry and anatomy, during their first three semesters. They apply in the fall of their third semester to be accepted into the nursing program in the spring.
“Nursing is not an easy job, but it provides a high satisfaction rate in knowing that you have helped people get well, and in some cases, provided comforting end-of-life care to the patient and to that patient’s families,” said Olson.
Olson said that one area that can complicate nursing today is that of pathophysiology, which includes learning about diseases and medications, and it is important for nurses to learn and understand the interactions between the two.
Critical thinking skills are more important than ever with all of the new diseases that are being discovered and those that are being treated. There are also new medications and nurses must always be aware of potential consequences of a certain medication.
“With nursing, you have to learn to work with others, not only on your team, but in the whole hospital as well. Nursing is a team effort, and you have to trust your gut intuition if something goes wrong. Stress is part of every career,” said Olson.
Olson says there is a hit and miss shortage of nurses across the state, in part because it is harder to recruit nurses to rural as opposed to urban areas. Some parts of the state have a 10 percent vacancy rate.
She also recognizes two challenges facing nurses in the near future. One is getting through school.
The other is making sure that hospitals have a sufficient number of nurses on staff so that care is not stretched thin.
“Hospital systems are responsible for acknowledging nursing demands and providing enough support for their nurses,” said Olson.
Olson that legislation has been introduced in the state legislature to offer an accelerated nursing program to those who may find themselves wanting a career switch or who are already in an area of the medical field. If the funding comes through, the program could possibly begin this fall.
“The accelerated program is the regular nursing program condensed into 12 months,” said Olson.
A typical semester of course work will be compressed into an eight week schedule.
In addition to regular classroom instruction, students will need to meet the demands for on-line courses, learning laboratories and clinical experiences.
For example, if a clinical experience is 12 hours a week in the generic program, it would be 24 hours a week in the accelerated program.