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SFSU responds to nursing shortage with new program

December 23, 2003

Photo of Beatrice Yorker, School of Nursing director, and two students practicing on a dummy patientResponding to the critical need for more nurses, SFSU has teamed up with Sequoia Hospital in a new program that will train at least 30 additional students each year and increase the University’s enrollment of nursing students by 40 percent. The first recruits begin classes in September 2004.

With space limited at the SFSU campus, classes will be held at Cañada College in Redwood City near Sequoia Hospital. SFSU and Cañada College built a partnership in the last two years where University students take child development, business and teacher education classes at Cañada, a two-year community college. The courses are taught by SFSU professors. By fall, nursing classes will be added to the roster.

The new program gives a dramatic boost not only to students hoping to become nurses but also hospitals and medical centers desperately in need of trained health-care workers.

Each year more than 600 students apply to SFSU’s School of Nursing, hoping to grab a spot in the well-regarded program. Competition is stiff as only 90 new students a year are accepted into the bachelor's of science nursing program and another 50 into the master's program. The new program will be offered only for students seeking a bachelor's degree.

"We are so full here and we can't stretch ourselves any further," said Beatrice Yorker, the nursing school's director. "The School of Nursing is very pleased to have a partnership with Sequoia Healthcare District that allows us to increase enrollment in an underserved area."

The Sequoia Healthcare District, part owner of Sequoia Hospital, approved the 10-year, $7.5 million deal earlier this month. SFSU and Cañada College are expected to follow suit in coming weeks.

SFSU faculty members and professors will teach theory classes and clinical nurses from Sequoia Hospital will provide hands-on training. Officials expect that many students who enroll in the Sequoia program will live and work on the Peninsula. It's also expected that once the nurses graduate, they will work in the local community.

Faculty members hope to design an accelerated course where students take less than three years (including summer school) to complete the program. All classes will be held at Cañada, which doesn't offer a nursing program but serves many pre-nursing students in such science courses as biology, chemistry and physiology. Students typically continue their nursing studies at College of San Mateo, SFSU or San Jose State University.

The country's nursing shortage comes as students see a well-paying career with opportunities in most areas of the United States. Also adding to the crisis is an aging nursing work force, an aging population and too few available spots in nursing schools.

"Nursing is a very stable profession, and nurses are in high demand across the country. This makes nursing a very appealing career choice, especially in a slow economy,” said Yorker, adding that she sees the need for more classroom space and higher salaries to recruit and retain qualified nursing professors.

Also compounding the nursing shortage is a new mandate that takes effect in January, when California will be the first state in the nation to mandate a certain number of nurses per patient in hospitals. Officials predict that an additional 5,000 new nurses will be needed to handle the new ratios. Hospitals will be required to have more nurses on staff, but many officials say the nurses just aren't available.

-- Christina Holmes


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Last modified January 9, 2004, by the Office of Public Affairs