Cal State San Bernardino nursing students checking on practice patient's vitals.
Story Nursing

CSU Nursing Pathways: Helping Meet Workforce Demands

Janessa Thropay

The CSU’s nursing pathways help students complete their baccalaureate nursing education and join the workforce faster.

Cal State San Bernardino nursing students checking on practice patient's vitals.

​Photo courtesy of Cal State San Bernardino


The California State University (CSU) has a proven history of providing nursing students with the instruction and hands-on experience necessary to step into the health care field. In light of the nation's nursing shortage, the CSU's nursing pathways are helping to meet workforce demands by bringing accessible, affordable and flexible programs to students from all backgrounds, including many first-generation students.

Currently, 20 of the CSU's 23 campuses have Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs, enrolling more than 7,600 nursing students and graduating more than 3,250 students each year. With accreditation by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, these programs are continually assessed for their quality and integrity in effectively educating the next generation of nurses to serve the diverse needs of the state and nation. Demonstrating the caliber of these programs, CSU nursing graduates consistently receive high passage rates that range from the high 80s to 100% on their Registered Nurse National Council Licensure Examination.​

Addressing the State's Toughest Nursing Issues

Although the CSU's nursing programs continue to expand, several challenges restrict the number of nursing students California can educate and graduate. First, securing clinical placements is challenging for nursing programs throughout California. Second, there is a shortage of qualified nursing faculty seeking employment in educational institutions throughout the state and nation.

A statewide approach to reduce barriers to nursing education that are linked to the current nursing shortage will​ require a united effort and thoughtful legislative measures.​​​

To promote collaborative problem solving, the CSU Chancellor’s Office will facilitate a statewide nursing summit at CSUN on May 10, bringing together health care employers, community colleges and community-based organizations to seek creative and proactive solutions to the hurdles affecting various levels of nursing education and professional development. The event, entitled "Building Califor​nia's Nursin​g Workforce: The CSU’s I​nvestment in the Future",​ will be livestreamed from 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and will feature key CSU representatives, including CSUN President Erika Beck.

In an effort to make nursing more accessible, 13 of the 20 CSU campuses that offer BSN programs also provide online Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)-to-BSN programs, allowing students to complete all upper-division baccalaureate nursing coursework remotely. The other seven campuses offer a hybrid instructional model of virtual and face-to-face learning, or a jump start for community college nursing students to enroll in BSN courses at the CSU during the summer.

In the 2021-22 academic year, the CSU granted a BSN to 1,396 registered nurses in its ADN-to-BSN programs.

Additionally, many CSU campuses offer both accelerated BSN and second bachelor nursing degree programs. These programs aim to provide access to nontraditional and mid-career individuals looking to become nurses that do not already have a nursing background. By allowing opportunities to meet students at any stage within their academic career, the CSU is proactive in serving both student and statewide nursing workforce needs.

Innovative Nursing Pathways

The CSU has worked closely with many California Community Colleges (CCC) to create streamlined concurrent enrollment programs and to connect students with clinical placements. These programs enable CCC students who are working to earn their ADN​ to also enroll in one of the CSU BSN degree programs. After earning their ADN, students complete their final coursework at the CSU and graduate with a BSN in as little as one to two semesters.

The first state-supported ADN-to-BSN concurrent enrollment pathway started in fall 2019 through a collaboration between Cal State San Bernardino​, Cal State Fullerton and Riverside Community College. CSUSB's program has since grown to include three more community colleges—San Bernardino Valley College, Chaffey College and Golden West College—making it possible for more students to complete their BSN education and join the workforce faster.

“Literature shows that nursing students who take the community college route require eight years for their BSN. By joining the collaborative, students will be done in four years," Terese Burch, CSUSB professor and former chair of the nursing department, said in a CSUSB article. “With this collaboration, nursing students receive high-quality, affordable community college and university curriculum pathways that prepare BSN nurse generalists to serve California."

In recognition of Cal State Fullerton's efforts to offer diverse nursing pathways, CalOptima​ Health recently approved a $5 million grant to aid in expanding their BSN program. The grant will boost collaboration with Orange County community college nursing programs by increasing concurrent enrollment slots from 25 to 40 and will provide a stipend to nursing students in their final​ two semesters, pending a commitment to work in Orange County following graduation.

Cal Poly Humboldt has​ partnered with College of the Redwoods and health care industry leaders to create a new, state-supported BSN pathway that will employ a flexible blend of online and in-person courses to accelerate academic and career advancement for students and nurses in rural areas.

Similarly, CSUN's Community College Collaborative Program links the university with several community college partners, including Glendale College, LA City College, College of the Canyons, Pasadena City College and Ventura Community College. If a student pursuing an ADN is attending a community college that does not yet have an established partnership with CSUN, the Department of Nursing is open to developing new partnerships to provide more access to students interested in pursuing their BSN degree.

“In a three-year format, the concurrent enrollment structure leverages the strengths of each educational sector, allowing for the acceleration of Californians' opportunities and access to high-wage, high-impact careers," CSUN President Erika Beck says.

Presently, 13 CSU campuses have formal ​concurrent enrollment nursing programs in partnership with 33 community colleges. These initiatives increase baccalaureate enrollment capacity, lower student costs and reduce the time to BSN graduation. Through work with community colleges and decision makers, the CSU continues to provide students with the instruction and experience necessary to excel on the frontlines of health care.​

Learn more about ADN/RN-to-BSN Programs across the CSU and how they prepare students for the future of health care.​