posted June 3, 2009

Hope Nursing Program to Expand

In response to strong national need and student interest, Hope College is expanding its nursing program.

Students begin studies in the program as sophomores, and since starting in 2002 the department has enrolled 36 students per year, for a total of 108 students in the nursing program at any given time.  The program, which leads to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), is growing to 45 students per class year, a 25 percent increase that will be phased in beginning during the 2009-10 school year with the incoming sophomore class.

Nursing programs are addressing an increasingly critical national shortage of Registered Nurses, according to Dr. Susan Dunn, associate professor of nursing and chairperson of the department.  According to projections in 2007 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than one million new and replacement nurses will be needed by 2016, with government analysts projecting that more than 587,000 new nursing positions will be created through 2016, making nursing the nation's top profession in terms of projected job growth.

"The need is already here, and it's going to increase," Dunn said.  "America is aging, and along with that the nursing work force is aging.  Many nurses are going to be retiring at the same time that more Americans will need health care."

Nursing education at Hope began in 1982 through a program that the college operated jointly with Calvin College through 2003.  When the two schools decided to establish independent programs, Hope set its 36-per-entering-class size based on projected student interest, and gained accreditation and state-board approval according to that total.  Consistently, however, student interest has outstripped capacity.

"Unfortunately, each year we have to turn down some very good students because of the limit on our class size to meet accreditation standards," said Dr. James Boelkins, provost at Hope.  "By making some modest staffing adjustments we will now be able to accept more of these excellent students, retain them at Hope and help them achieve their vision of becoming nurses."

The college has obtained approval for the increase from both the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Michigan Board of Nursing.  Hope recently received 10-year continuing accreditation - the maximum possible duration - from the CCNE.  Hope had previously received five-year accreditation - the maximum available to a new program - in 2004.

Dunn feels that the college is well positioned to accommodate the increase, particularly given the outstanding resource of the A. Paul Schaap Science Center in which the building is based.  The science center hadn't yet opened when the department was established, but since the building's debut in 2003, she said, it has served exceptionally well while also showing itself equal to handling more.

"We're in this beautiful facility.  We have enough lab space.  We have enough office space," Dunn said.

The program is also well served, she said, by its clinical partners, who have indicated their ability and willingness to accommodate more students.  Throughout their time in the nursing program, students participate in multiple field placements, including six specialty practicum courses, a research practicum, a family health course and an internship.  Area clinical sites have included DeVos Children's Hospital, Holland Hospital, the Ottawa County Health Department, Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services, Spectrum Health and Zeeland Hospital.