Would-Be Nurses Outgrow Class Space

Would-Be Nurses Outgrow Class Space

The Herald Bulletin

January 12, 2010

Jan. 12—ANDERSON, Ind. — A nursing shortage across Indiana and the nation isn’t likely to ease anytime soon, but it isn’t for lack of people who want the training.

“It’s extremely competitive,” said Susan Nelson, chairwoman of Ivy Tech Community College’s regional nursing department. That includes nursing programs at campuses in Anderson, Marion, Muncie and New Castle.

Nelson said there are about 70 students each in Anderson and Muncie studying in a one-year course for a certificate that allows them to take a test to become a licensed practical nurse. There are 100 in the region in the traditional two-year associate degree program studying in hopes to become registered nurses.

For the RN program, “for fall admission, we admit 60 for the region,” Nelson said. “We have approximately 275 or better apply for those positions.”

Likewise, about 190 applied for the 60 LPN openings last fall. A transitional program, which allows LPNs to become RNs, also has more demand than Ivy Tech can meet.

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Part of the problem is a shortage of qualified instructors. A 2008 survey by the Indiana Nursing Workforce Development Coalition reported that about 2,500 qualified applicants were unable to gain entry to a nursing program because of a lack of qualified professors.

This comes as a national shortage of nurses has become chronic and is expected to grow worse. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing reports that the national vacancy rate for registered nursing positions exceeds 8 percent.

Nelson said lack of qualified instructors is a problem, because nurses must earn a master’s degree or be working toward one to teach. She said Ivy Tech is providing funding for its faculty who want to pursue a master’s degree to become nursing instructors.

But more than qualified instructors, Nelson said, a shortage of clinical openings is a barrier to raising the number of nursing students the school could accept.

“We really have done our best to provide needed opportunities for students, but you can’t teach them if you don’t have a clinical spot,” she said.

Students are required to spend a portion of their instruction in clinical settings to successfully complete courses. Because Anderson University, Ball State University and Indiana University-Kokomo offer courses, Nelson said competition for clinical openings for nursing students in local hospitals, care facilities and clinics also is a factor.

Representatives from Anderson University’s nursing program could not be reached for comment on Monday.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual salary of an LPN in the Anderson area in May 2008 was $38,420. The mean salary for RNs was $55,880, according to the bureau.

An RN often can earn more on the job than in the classroom. The Department of Labor says an assistant nursing professor earns on average about $50,000 a year.

“Anytime I talk to anyone, they have a job,” Nelson said. “If anyone didn’t get a job, they’re either waiting to get a job or waiting to get a shift they want.”

Contact Dave Stafford: 648-4250,

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Copyright © 2010, The Herald Bulletin, Anderson, Ind.

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