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Grand Canyon University accelerated program helping combat nursing shortage

The program kicked off in fall 2020 and the first graduating class will be finished in December.
Published: Nov. 22, 2021 at 1:35 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Grand Canyon University is implementing an accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program to combat the nationwide shortage, getting professionals on the front lines of care in as little as 16 months.

The program kicked off in the fall of 2020, and the first graduating class will be finished with the program in December.

Kimarie Jeffreys, Senior Director of Nursing Services at GCU, said the demand for nurses was already high prior to the pandemic, but COVID-19 exacerbated the problem.

“The ABSN programs are truly a blessing to the nursing profession. The pandemic increased the need for not just any nurse but a nurse that’s baccalaureate prepared and able to hit the ground running when they get into the healthcare system,” Jeffreys said.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the market demand for nurses is projected to grow 9% from 2020 to 2030, with about 194,500 openings each year, on average, over the next decade.

Jeffreys said the program is seeing students apply who say the pandemic and the need for nurses caused them to switch career paths.

“We have seen that societal shift where the pandemic has really caused people to reevaluate who they are and where they are right now,” Jeffreys said. “As a result, those who may have said, ‘I really don’t have time to go to nursing school or I don’t want to do the clinical and the skills lab and testing.’ They’re suddenly saying, ‘you know it’s going to be worth it, and it is worth it in the end.’”

Currently, the GCU program has 125 students and expects to have 150 by the spring. The program provides students with online courses, skills labs, immersive simulations and clinicals. Students must have 60 college credits to apply.

Ariana Monroy and Mariah Ransom will be graduating in December. Both students said the program is intense and requires 6-8 hours of work daily.

Monroy said the coronavirus caused her to hesitate with her career path, but ultimately made her realize how important it was to stay on track and become a nurse.

“I think initially COVID was a little scary because I was already planning to become a nurse before the pandemic, so once the pandemic hit it was sort of a reality check,” Monroy said. “Once I was here though, it motivated me more to become a nurse and I’m ready to graduate and get out in the field, start caring for others.”

Despite the challenge, Ransom said she feels prepared to take on the national exam. She said the ABSN program helped her realize just how much nurses are needed amid the pandemic.

“It was a little scary at first, but once you realize you’re in the hospital and you realize these people need care and someone has to do it,” Ransom said. “I feel like it has kind of driven me to be that person who steps in there when other people are scared to.”

At 96.17%, the university boasted one of the highest first-time student pass rates on the NCLEX exam in 2020, exceeding the state average of 91.44% for the year and the national average of 86.58%.

Start dates for the program are in January, May and September.

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