The department of nursing at Hope College and the Grand Valley State University Kirkhof College of Nursing have entered into a partnership intended not only to benefit students but to help address a national need.

Through the agreement, GVSU will designate a total of four spaces in its graduate-level nursing program each academic year for qualified applicants from Hope:  two in the master’s-level Clinical Nurse Leader (MSN-CNL) program, and two in the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program.  The agreement is effective for the 2012-13 academic year.

Dr. Susan Dunn, who is an associate professor of nursing and chairperson of the department at Hope, noted that the U.S. faces a nationwide shortage of nurses.  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 for nurses with advanced education, she said, is particularly acute.

“Not only is there a national nursing shortage, but this is where the shortage is particularly critical:  with the master’s, DNP and Ph.D.-prepared nurses,” Dunn said.  “So we will be meeting a societal need in addition to serving our students.  We have great graduates and need to encourage them to advance their education further.”

The relationship with GVSU continues the Hope department’s outreach to graduate-level programs.  In 2009, Hope and the College of Nursing at Michigan State University entered into a partnership that assures two seats to qualified applicants from Hope in the university’s accelerated BSN to Ph.D. program.

Approximately 30 percent of Hope nursing graduates report returning to graduate school within three years of graduation, and Dunn noted that the interest among current students is high as well, as evidenced by strong enrollment in the program’s optional “Advanced Studies in Nursing” course.

“Of the 40 seniors this year, 26 of them took that class,” she said.

The department of nursing at Hope began in 2002, although nursing education at the college goes back another two decades.  From 1982 through 2003, Hope and Calvin College operated a nursing program jointly before creating their own, independent programs.

The Hope nursing program is approved by the Michigan Board of Nursing and is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).  As one external indication of excellence, Hope graduates have consistently exceeded the state and national averages in passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), and during 2010-11 Hope was among the select eight percent of programs nationwide whose graduates achieved a 100-percent pass rate.

Students begin studies in the program as sophomores based on completion of prerequisite classes as freshmen.  The major includes coursework on campus as well as multiple field placements, the latter spread across six specialty practicum courses, a research practicum, a family health course and an internship.  Area clinical sites have included Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, Holland Hospital, the Ottawa County Health Department, Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services, Spectrum Health and Zeeland Hospital.