Fresno State Nursing Program

April 8, 2009 1:12:53 AM PDT
These days some of the most recession proof jobs are in the varied fields of healthcare and one of the most sought after of applicants are registered nurses. At Fresno State the Nursing Department is not only graduating registered nurses but preparing them to teach other aspiring nurses. Unfortunately, the program's success may not be enough to secure its future.

You don't need to look much farther than downtown Fresno and the Community Regional Medical Center to find a growing need for more trained registered nurses. CRMC has one of the busiest emergency departments in California but just like other hospitals, the nursing staff here is its pulse. Mary Contreras, RN, and Chief Nursing Office for Community Medical Centers says, "There's not only a nursing shortage but there's a faculty shortage."

At Fresno State, the nursing department is working on both those problems. Kjerstin Asleson is completing her degree in nursing long after she left high school. She may have returned for this higher education later in life but she is already helping teach other students. It was no made for TV moment that we saw but 'real' Fresno State nursing students being coached by a pair of unique older students. Kjerstin put it this way, "It is about making a difference and it's really rewarding to see that, when you have made a difference." She is with in weeks of getting her under graduate degree in nursing.

Tou Thao Lee has completed a rigorous 3-year entry level nursing master's degree program. He first completed his work to become a registered nurse and in May will receive the master's degree in nursing he earned in a unique accelerated course lasting 18 months. .

Neither of these older students had ever worked in the medical field. Tou Thao's B.A. in chemistry qualified him to apply to Fresno state's unique nursing masters program, "You get to come back and to teach a student what you learn, you get to teach them critical thinking, clinical judgment, communication." Teaching appeals to his Hmong-American heritage and hopes to help bridge healthcare gaps in that community.

The nursing profession sees older returning students like as one way to increase the pool of registered nurses says Mike Russler, RN and chair of the Department of Nursing, "The profession is enhanced because we have this background. So we don't see it as a deficit, we see it as a benefit. But they still have to have core course work."

Garret Lynch is a husband and father of two with a degree in Physical Therapy. He has the required science courses to be a candidate for the next entry level nursing master's class this summer. He wants to blend his physical therapy training with nursing to work as a Rehab Nurse, "I felt that this would be a great combination of teaching and work with patients. I'd be able to work in the hospital and teach at the school."

All three were looking for stable good paying jobs that would help others too. Each may eventually fill two nursing shortages in various ways according to Mary Contreras, "Nurses who have some life experience sometimes brings some experience that helps them get to those critical thinking skills and decision making skills a little quicker."

How long the entry level nursing masters opportunity lasts isn't as clear. The CSU system won't know if state funding will continue for this unique program and its faculty until next year's budget is passed. Here at Fresno State the hope is it will.

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