Is Missouri Western addressing the future nursing shortage?

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Jess Zielinski (MWSU hoodie) and Kalli Dishon assessing a patient.


With a large nurse shortage around the corner, Missouri Western’s nursing program is looking to make changes over the next several years.

In a 2012 report that appeared in the American Journal of Medical Quality it was predicted that there will be a shortage of nearly 2,000 nurses by 2030 in Missouri.  The state of Kansas will fall short by nearly 4,000.

“Due to the new healthcare plan, many will seek shorter hospital stays and community based nursing,” Chair of the Nursing Department Dr. Kathleen O’Connor said.

O’Connor said that the average age of working registered nurses is 47. The average age of a RN is 44.5 according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. As they reach retirement age there aren’t enough workers to replace them so many of them are choosing to work past their retirement date.

O’Connor said that Western is addressing the potential nursing shortage by preparing for re-accreditation of their Bachelor of Science in nursing program and an initial accreditation of the Master of Science in nursing program.  Students, alumni and administration will take part in the evaluation and audit for three days the first week of March.   The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education is a nursing education accrediting agency dedicated exclusively to the accreditation of bachelor’s and graduate degree nursing education programs.

“There is so much potential in the profession,” O’Connor said.  “The best thing about this field is the diverse job opportunities, from public health and hospice to community settings.”

O’Connor said that Western will be focusing on expansion of the RN to BSN program and the newer MSN program. These are the two areas that she sees the most potential for growth given the resources available at Western.  She says there is no room for growth in the current RN program due to limited resources including space and faculty.  O’Connor is unaware of any plans by the university to expand the departments resources in the future.

Opportunities for RNs with bachelor’s degrees are growing.

“Employment is available in hospitals, schools, public health departments and outpatient clinics,” O’Connor said.

Many students choose to continue their education to become nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, clinical nurse specialists, nurse educators, executives and researchers. The Nurse Practitioner role will continue to dramatically increase.   Western has averaged 89 BSN graduates in the last three years since it was created.

Western has a criteria set by the Missouri State Board of Nursing. One hundred qualified students are admitted to the RN program yearly.  The program is structured to have a 10 students to for every faculty member.  Yearly, approximately 15 percent of applying students are turned away.

“10 years ago we were admitting 80,” Dr. O’Connor said.

The 100 RN students are divided into half for the fall and spring semesters.  Criteria for acceptance is as follows:

  •   Admission to Missouri Western State University
  • Completed application submitted to Nursing CAS (students apply at the end of their third semester at Western and receive word of acceptance or denial during the fourth semester)
  • ACT composite score of 20 (if student has a minimum of 30 college credits and meets other admission criteria, the ACT requirement may be waived)
  • Completed or be currently enrolled in all general studies and nursing support courses (support courses must be completed with a grade of “C” or better)
  • A minimum cumulative GPA of 2.7

Dr. O’Connor said that maintaining the highest GPA possible can increase your chance of admission to this program.  Early acceptance to high school seniors and first time freshman at Western is offered if eligible.  Megan Hunt applied to the RN program twice and was denied each time.  Her anatomy grade was one point below the requirement.  She is currently in UMKC’s nursing program.

“If I hadn’t transferred to UMKC I would still be waiting to be accepted,” Hunt said. “If Missouri Western was really concerned about the nursing shortage they should open up the enrollment considering over 300 apply to the RN program.”

She said the class sizes were too large and there wasn’t enough one on one time with professors.

Megan Langdon was accepted into the RN program on her first try.  Since then she has changed her major to Health Information Technology.  She said the six hours or more of lecture were difficult to manage and suggests they be split up into shorter class periods.

Northwest Missouri State University doesn’t offer a BSN degree.  Northwest recently entered into an agreement with North Central Missouri College in Trenton, Mo to offer pre-nursing students the opportunity to study for RN certification.  Northwest pre-nursing students can take classes with NCMC faculty at the Northwest Technical School campus in Maryville.

Highland Community College accepts 40 students in its licensed practical nurse  program.  Their LPN to RN program accommodates 20 students.  They report they get 2 to 3 times that many applicants for their programs.

There are many Associate Degree Nursing programs in the area.  Dr. O’Connor said that MWSU receives several transfer students each semester that pass the criteria required for the RN program.

”The (Western) classes were beneficial when it came to clinical work,” Langdon said. “The clinical course has a ratio of no more than 10 students per clinical instructor.  There are practical training opportunities available in the St Joseph and greater Kansas City region.”

O’Connor said that she has been constantly receiving emails from December graduates telling her where they have gotten hired.

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