JMU School of Nursing to grow, address catch-22
Starting in January, the program will admit 23 additional students each semester for a cohort of 113, a 25 percent increase from the 90 students it has been admitting per semester since 2012. The increase will result in more nurses entering the workforce, helping to address a nursing shortage, particularly in rural areas, and will also enable more qualified students to enter the program, alleviating another problem facing nursing schools across the country — a lack of space for qualified students.
U.S. Rep. Ben Cline, R-6th, who toured the School of Nursing on Wednesday, said, “I had the opportunity to see firsthand the great work being accomplished by JMU’s School of Nursing, and I applaud their decision to expand the program and admit more students each semester. Our rural communities are often underserved in their healthcare needs, and JMU’s commitment to addressing nursing shortages in the Commonwealth is an admirable and necessary venture.”
Communities across the country, especially in rural areas, are facing nursing shortages as veteran nurses retire or change careers faster than new nurses enter the workforce, said Melody Eaton, interim director of the JMU School of Nursing and a professor of nursing. An aging population that requires more care from healthcare systems also factors in.
While there are more than enough students interested in nursing to keep pace with the vacancies, the JMU School of Nursing, and other nursing schools in Virginia and around the country, are limited on the number of students they can admit.
“Currently, we can’t accept all of the students who apply to the BSN program and this is really going to help with that,” said Jamie Robinson, associate director for undergraduate programs in the JMU School of Nursing and an assistant professor of nursing.
A number of factors, including Virginia Board of Nursing mandated student-faculty ratios, limit the number of students nursing schools can admit, and schools in rural areas face additional obstacles. Since nursing majors are required to get hands-on experience in healthcare facilities, a number of partnerships with hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities are required. Those partners also have limits on how many students they can train at any one time.
“We’re a rural university, not associated with an academic medical center, and we rely on our clinical partners to host our students. Because of this we are mindful of the effect our growth may have on our clinical partners,” Robinson said.