Long wait for students to enroll in some community college nursing programs

Credit: Riverside City College / RCC.edu

Despite the strong demand for more nurses, students at some California community colleges are struggling to gain acceptance into nursing programs.

It’s an issue that leaders of the student senate at California Community Colleges want to tackle to eliminate a controversial lottery system that has barred some students from becoming nurses.

Of the nearly 80 nursing programs offered at the 115 campus community colleges, some use a lottery system to admit applicants. Some students have complained of long waiting lists, preventing them from continuing their major.

“We are going to see a lot of nurses resign because of Covid, and we will not be able to replace them quickly enough,” said Katelyn Bourne, former member of the student senate and transfer student to Humboldt State. “Why not create a generalized system for getting students to become nurses? Do it first come, first served.

In a first-come, first-served system, students would be enrolled as they were accepted into the nursing program.

It is not known exactly how many colleges use a lottery program. A 2019 report of the 77 nursing programs in the community college system found that 47 campuses used a multi-criteria selection process that assessed any diplomas or certificates they already hold, grade point average, volunteer work, interviews, recommendations and life experiences such as being a first generation student or from a low income background.

The remaining 30 used first come, first served, modified random selection, prerequisite courses, or a random lottery.

It is up to each campus with a nursing program to decide how it wishes to admit students, but in a written response from the California Community College Chancellor’s Office, multicriteria screening appears to be the most effective in reducing the number of students. ‘students who leave a program before completion compared to other methods.

“Colleges using a multi-criteria (process) monitor the negative impact on diversity, and so far the data shows no negative impact,” said Rafael Chavez, spokesperson for the chancellor’s office.

But some colleges do not have the staff or resources to offer a multi-criteria selection process.

“We use a lottery process because we don’t have the manpower to process 150+ applications,” said Roberta Farrar, director of nursing at Humboldt County’s College of the Redwoods. “We have one person: me.

College of the Redwoods enrolls approximately 40 students each year in the first year of the program. This means that students can spend about a year or two on the program’s waiting list. And the college lacks funding to open a lot more places. The program uses a computerized lottery to grant admission to the program.

Limited finances, few clinical sites and faculty fatigue have limited the number of students who can participate in nursing despite the demand to enter these programs and the massive shortage of nurses that California faces, has said Farrar.

A new report from the Center for Health Workforce Research at the University of California at San Francisco on long-term care estimates a shortage of 40,567 full-time RNs expected to persist through 2026 The report details that many older nurses have left the field and many plan to retire or quit smoking within the next two years.

The report also found that California is producing fewer nurses.

Community colleges and state universities have had to cut enrollments, skip new student classes and reduce class sizes during the pandemic, in part due to the inability to place students in clinical placements where they receive practical training.

“These programs did not have the resources to pivot online or remotely into classrooms like private schools can,” said Joanne Spetz, director of the Institute for Health Policy Studies at UCSF and co-author of the report. “Policy makers must support public nursing education programs to ensure a continuous pipeline of nurses into the health care system. “

Farrar said a first-come, first-served system wouldn’t work either, as the college receives applications from across the state. Due to limited space on many campuses, the College of the Redwoods receives applications from students who do not intend to relocate to Humboldt County or remain in the community to help remedy the shortage of nurses in rural northern California.

“When I get someone from San Diego with no intention of staying in Humboldt County, it doesn’t help us,” she said.

The lottery system helps students get off the waiting list faster, Farrar said. Accepted students get two deferrals before being required to reapply.

“We receive requests from outside the state, from inside the state; people send me the nursing exam results and haven’t even applied, ”she said. “They are applying to as many schools as possible to see who takes them first.”

Bourne, the student who helped draft a bill that would end the nursing school lottery process, said the Student Senate didn’t just want to open the door for more candidates.

“We also want a separate bill to increase funding for nursing programs at community colleges,” she said. This funding would be used for larger class sizes, more incentives to hire nurse educators, and perhaps a way to pay hospitals for more clinical training opportunities.

The chancellor’s office agrees that more funding and resources from the legislature would help.

Chavez said help could come by offering hospitals incentives to offer clinical placements at public community colleges and universities, offering higher pay to registered nurses as a recruiting tool, and changing regulations that allow more time. clinical training in areas of the hospital that are not providing direct patient care.

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