The education of nurses is vital to the health and welfare of Arizona residents. The Arizona State University College of Nursing & Healthcare Innovation has doubled its enrollment in the past five years to help close a critical shortage of nurses in our health-care system, which makes it the state’s and one of the nation’s largest producers of nurses with baccalaureate and graduate degrees.
Since 2004, the College of Nursing has increased its faculty from 42 to 80 full-time members and 65 part-time faculty. During that time, the number of students admitted to the bachelor of science degree in nursing program increased from 160 to 300 a year. Although substantial state budget cuts will reduce that number to 220 admissions per year, it is a net gain of 60 graduates a year over the 2004 level.
Despite the rapid expansion, the program has maintained its outstanding quality with consistently high pass rates on the RN-licensure exam by its graduates and has become a national model for the preparation of nurses who deliver evidence-based care, which improves health-care quality, cost and patient safety.
Increases in enrollment to other nursing-degree programs at ASU also have been dramatic:
RNs returning for bachelor of science in nursing degrees have increased from 41 per year to 119, a 190 percent increase.
Master’s and doctor of nursing practice degree admissions, which prepare nurse practitioners to provide quality health care to Arizonans, have increased from 125 to 184.
Master of health-care innovation degree admissions that prepare leaders for health systems have increased from the first class of 16 in 2007 to 35 students currently enrolled;
Thirty students will be admitted to the first cohort of students in the master of clinical research management degree that begins in August.
And 19 students have been admitted to the PhD program that prepares nurse educators to teach nurses in a time of a critical shortage of nursing faculty.
In the face of extreme state budget cuts, ASU had to make a difficult decision to reduce the number of students it can admit. Reducing the number of students who are admitted to the traditional baccalaureate program was only one strategy implemented to deal with the budget reduction.
Other actions included placing a hold on various open faculty positions and reorganizing the college’s five nurse-practitioner managed-health centers. Substantial funding increases from new faculty grants, development efforts and continuing education initiatives helped to avoid further reductions in enrollment.
Four years ago, ASU “stepped up to the plate” to help reduce the state’s nursing shortage. That the College of Nursing has had to retrench in the wake of a dire budgetary situation is not a wavering of commitment to produce the highest quality of nurses to care for the people of Arizona, but rather a fact of fiscal reality.
It is costly to educate nurses compared to graduates in non-licensed degree programs, in large part due to the state-mandated 1:10 faculty-student ratio for clinical-learning experiences to best ensure safety and quality care for patients.
State funding to ASU has been cut tens of millions of dollars during the past six months and tuition covers only approximately 25 percent of the cost of a nurse’s education. It is not possible to provide a high-quality education to more and more students with fewer and fewer resources.
To combat the most severe nursing shortage that our state and country has ever seen, more funding from multiple sources is desperately needed so that our colleges can produce more highly competent nurses, nurse practitioners and doctorally prepared faculty to ensure the health and safety of the public today and for years to come.(sources)