Hope Brings Nursing Program Into Community

June 4, 2002
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HOLLAND — Students enrolling at Hope College’s nursing school will focus a good part of their time in the community, serving and caring for patients in a variety of settings away from hospitals.

The idea is to better prepare students by providing them with non-hospital work experiences so they can weigh their career path after graduation.

“We feel we’re giving students a broader perspective in seeing what health care needs are and wherever needs are at,” said Debra Sietsema, chairwoman and an assistant professor for Hope’s nursing department.

“We recognize there’s a broad base of opportunities open to students when they graduate,” Sietsema said.

Hope College will work with Holland Community Hospital, Zeeland Community Hospital, Spectrum Health Butterworth Campus, county health departments, nursing homes and assisted-living centers, schools, churches and several non-profit agencies such as Hospice of Holland to place students into internships in the community. Students will focus largely on health promotion and disease prevention.

Students, for example, will work with underserved families to help them understand health issues that affect them and then connect with the right services. A student who’s studying pharmacology may work with a person or family to go over the medications they take to make sure they understand the side effects and safe usage.

Nursing students will serve a 10-week internship, working 20 hours to 24 hours a week with a nurse in the community. The service-oriented, community-based approach to the program fits with Hope’s Christian principles, Sietsema said.

Hope received approval for the new program early this month from the Michigan State Board of Nursing, a crucial step needed as the college prepares to separate a joint nursing program it has operated with Calvin College for 20 years. The approval enables Hope nursing graduates to take the state licensing exam and attend graduate nursing school.

By partnering with Hope, Holland Community Hospital is elevating its involvement in nursing education amid hopes that students will remain in the area for their careers.

“Ultimately, we hope to employ them when they graduate,” said Patti VanDort, the hospital’s vice president of nursing.

Hope and Calvin are separating their joint program beginning in January, although they will continue classes for current enrollees through May 2004. The separate Hope program begins next month with 32 students at each grade level — sophomore, junior and senior. It has a capacity for 40 students at each grade.

The colleges are venturing into their own nursing programs at a time when the profession is facing a chronic staffing shortage in the years ahead.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that the nation is facing a shortage of 1 million nurses by 2010, as nurses retire or leave the profession and fewer people opt to enter the profession. The shortage will come at a time when nurses are needed the most, as baby boomers hit their retirement years.

Up until this fall, enrollments at entry-level nursing schools were in a decline. Enrollments at the 548 nursing schools with bachelor’s and graduate-degree programs increased 3.7 percent over 2000, to 106,557.

While the increase ended a six-year slide, the enrollment level is still well below the 127,683 students of 1995 and “remains insufficient to meet the projected demand” for nurses over the next 10 years, according to a recently released survey from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. More than a third of the schools surveyed reported no change or declines from their 2000 enrollments.

The association cites stepped-up efforts by colleges and hospitals to recruit more people into the profession with the goal of at least stemming the overall enrollment decline.

“Schools are experiencing a limited measure of success, but we still have a long way to go to meet the projected demand,” association President Carolyn Williams said.           

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