By MAX FILBY
As students were moving onto campus Thursday, the University of Findlay announced they could start applying to join its new nursing program.
The program, which will enroll only 30 students each year, will offer students a chance to get a bachelor of science degree in nursing. The program will start this semester.
University officials knew the complex approval process would take some time, and they weren’t expecting it to be accredited just four days before fall semester starts.
“It’s quite a lengthy approval process,” said Marjorie Walker, chair of the newly-formed nursing department. “There isn’t a thing they don’t look at.”
The university started looking into a nursing program in 2012, and was notified on Wednesday it had been accredited by the Ohio Board of Regents, the Ohio Board of Nursing and the Higher Learning Commission.
Factors those boards looked at include the ability of the school to provide nursing education, how many other nursing programs are in the region, and how big the demand is for a new program.
To provide the required classes, the university plans to hire five full-time professors and three part-time professors during the program’s first four years, Walker said.
“We’re looking to add them as we add more of the nursing classes later on,” Walker said.
Walker said the University of Findlay’s program will be different from others because it will have freshmen taking nursing-specific classes during their second semester. Students will also get a chance to start clinical hours earlier than most, during their sophomore year instead of junior year.
“We looked at other programs that didn’t start any nursing training until they were two years in,” Walker said. “We had to ask ourselves, ‘Is this the best design?’ To which, personally, I think the answer is no.”
Andrea Koepke, dean of the College of Health Professions, has said she would eventually like the university to offer a bachelor’s degree completion program for those with a two-year nursing degree who would like to continue their education. The university has worked with Owens Community College and Blanchard Valley Hospital on that idea.
In terms of demand for the four-year degree, Walker said she isn’t worried about competing with other area programs.
Since 2007, the University of Findlay has received about 300 to 400 inquiries a year from students who wanted to know if a degree in nursing was an option.
National statistics show high interest in the nursing field will be met with an increasingly higher demand for nurses.
By 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts there will be more than 1.2 million openings for nurses, up 26 percent from the current number. The demand is also expected to grow 19 percent faster than the average demand for occupations in the U.S.
Part of that will be due to the retirement of the baby boomer generation, Walker said.
“Baby boomers are starting to leave the field and that means a huge population is moving out of the job market and needing more health care,” Walker said.
Increased knowledge of technology and greater interest in preventive health care is also adding to the demand for nurses.
Despite a high level of interest in the new program, Walker thinks it will take a few years for it to really pick up. She doesn’t expect the program to fill up this year, but said the longer it is there, the more competitive it will be to get into.
“This first year it might not be in full swing or at full enrollment,” Walker said. “But, eventually I think we’ll have students waiting to get in.”