Campus: CSU Humboldt -- October 17, 2005

St. Joseph Hospital's training support helps HSU fight nursing shortage

"Every nurse counts," said Wendy Woodward, explaining how a new innovative partnership between Humboldt State University and St. Joseph Health Systems-Humboldt (SJHS) will help alleviate what has become a chronic shortage in the nursing profession.

Woodward, chair of the HSU Department of Nursing, said the provision of a half-time faculty member from SJHS Nursing Institute allowed the university to accept 10 additional nursing students this semester. That meant 50 new faces instead of only 40, bringing the total number of HSU nursing majors to 145, along with 145 nursing pre-majors.

The instructor - Tamara Capik, an intensive-care-unit charge nurse at St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka - is teaching clinical technique and practice, sharing her experience and the latest on-the-job challenges with students. They meet in HSU's Nursing Laboratory, which simulates a seven-bed ward in a hospital, complete with mannequins - or sometimes classmates - in the role of patients. Capik herself is a graduate of HSU's nursing program.

According to Mary Anne McCrea, RN, SJHS vice president and chief operating officer, St. Joseph Hospital has committed to provide, for three years, a registered nurse with a bachelor's or master's degree in nursing as an in-kind donation, along with clinical supplies for use in HSU's nursing labs.

"This is a win-win situation for everyone - from the community-at-large to student nurses, instructors and patients," she said.

The Nursing Institute, an internal training and support program for St. Joseph Hospital's staff, was looking for ways to create a more supportive environment for nurses, said McCrea, when an institute team established the model to work with HSU to further larger educational initiatives.

According to Chief Executive Officer Michael Purvis, "At St. Joseph Health System, we are dedicated to improving the health and quality of life in the communities we serve on the North Coast. The Nursing Institute partnership is an investment in that future. A creative partnership between academic institutions and service institutions is the only answer to providing a base of support to increase the national demand for numbers of RN graduates."

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, while enrollment in entry-level bachelor-degree programs in nursing increased by 10.6 percent from 2003 to 2004, nursing schools in the United States denied 26,340 qualified applicants in 2004, about 10,000 more than they did the year before. Nursing faculty shortages, a diminished pool of clinical sites and lack of funding resources are among the roadblocks identified by nursing school administrators.

Generally each year, HSU's program receives more than 100 applicants and is only able to accept less than half of them.

Woodward said, "It is terrible to have to turn away talented, compassionate and academically well-prepared students. The same situation exists here as elsewhere in California. Preparing an additional ten nurses makes a huge difference to our local and regional health care settings. Every nurse counts."

HSU's program has produced more than 1,000 nurses since it was established nearly 50 years ago, she said. It currently has 17 faculty members teaching in a variety of clinical specialties.

"We have a unique, progressive curriculum based on understanding a client's world view prior to planning their care," said Woodward. "This has kept nursing practice client-centered, a model that has kept HSU nurses at the bedside for 10, 15, 20 years, when our sister schools lose nurses to burnout. Fueled by an increasing interest, holistic nursing is also taught at HSU, one of 12 university nursing program recognized by the American Holistic Nursing Association."

She said it is common for new nursing graduates to fill positions at the hospitals in which they learned. "Even some of those who leave the area often return," she said.

Sean Kearns, HSU Public Affairs, 707-826-5151,,
Brenda Bishop, St. Joseph Health Systems, 707-269-4268,

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