U of U College of Nursing to expand enrollment, commit $400k per year to help ease shortage of nurses

File photo: University of Utah

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, April 1, 2022 (Gephardt Daily) — The University of Utah announced Friday that its College of Nursing will increase enrollment in its pre licensure track by 25% over the next year.

This decision is designed to address the shortage of nurses in Utah, as there is a need for registered nurses “in the wake of COVID-19 and because of other factors that are reshaping the nursing profession,” says a U of U news release.

“This initiative is a major undertaking, and it is the right thing to do given the contemporary challenges we face,” said Michael Good, M.D., CEO of University of Utah Health in the statement. “It’s vital that we educate, train, and deploy enough nurses in Utah and elsewhere in the Mountain West to provide the health care that residents of this region have come to expect and deserve. This new approach to nursing education will be beneficial to all. I am grateful to our nursing faculty for proactively addressing this challenge.”

U of U Health’s College of Nursing will accept an additional 36 prelicensure students each year, increasing its annual enrollment from 144 to 180 students, according to the news release.

“In the past, the College of Nursing accepted 72 students for either spring or fall semester enrollment. Now the college will accept 60 students three times a year by adding the option of summer semester enrollment.”

The college will commit more than $400,000 per year to achieve this goal, the release states.

“Additional personnel devoted to this increase in students will include full-time faculty adjunct faculty, a student advisor, a clinical placement coordinator, and patient simulation specialists,” said Marla De Jong, Ph.D., RN, dean of the College of Nursing.

U of U says the change is needed because the “profession is facing a potentially crippling shortage of nurses nationwide. In fact, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects nearly 176,000 new job openings a year for registered nurses through 2029.”

According to the news release, more than 2,500 registered nursing positions are currently unfilled in Utah alone.

“This gap is particularly striking given that 88% of College of Nursing graduates live and work in Utah. It is also one of the major reasons the college is expanding its enrollment,” De Jong said.

Earlier this year, 20 US Navy medical personnel, including 14 nurses, were deployed to U of U Hospital to help alleviate staffing shortages, and the shortage led the hospital to defer hundreds of surgeries and limit acceptance of transfers from outlying hospitals, the release says.

This short-term solution won’t resolve the long-term problem, according to Melody Krahulec, DNP, M.S., RN, assistant dean for Undergraduate Programs at the College of Nursing.

“Long hours, physical stress, and mental strain have taken their toll on nurses for decades, leading many of them to leave the profession. The COVID-19 pandemic has merely exacerbated that trend, with perhaps as many as one in five considering leaving nursing within the next two years,” she stated.

Also, about one in five Utah nurses are nearing retirement age.

“That’s why an influx of a new generation of highly trained and competent registered nurses is vital,” De Jong said.

In addition to new faculty, the College of Nursing will seek additional preceptors in community hospitals and clinics to oversee the 900 hours of clinical experience required for each nursing student prior to graduation.

Enrollment for the summer 2022 semester has been filled, and the fall 2022 application cycle is closed. Spring 2023 semester applications are due by September 1, 2022, and fall 2023 applications are due by February 1, 2023. The deadline for summer 2023 applications will be announced soon.


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