Nursing student hopefuls have difficulty getting into major at James Madison University

(JMU Breeze) Only 30 percent of this year’s applicants to the nursing program were accepted. That’s 60 students out of 200 total applicants this semester.

Junior Rachel Schwartz changed her major to health sciences after being denied from the nursing program three times.

“I was always a really hard worker, and I got pretty good grades,” Schwartz said. “I had to have all my prerequisites completed, and anatomy and physiology were really difficult for me at this school.”

After struggling with those two classes, which brought her GPA down, she decided to change her major and pursue an accelerated nursing program. She will graduate a year and half later than she expected.

“I have to use my two repeat-forgives on anatomy and physiology, which I have to retake for health sciences, anyway,” Schwartz said. “I still have to do really well in both those classes to get into that [accelerated nursing] program.”

Applications reviewed by the Bachelor of Science in Nursing admissions committee are evaluated and selected based on overall GPA and prerequisite course grades. The minimum GPA required to be considered is 2.8, and a C-minus is the minimum grade applicants can receive in their prerequisite courses to be considered.

Applications must be turned in about six months before the start date and are advised to have completed 25 credit hours.

Even with these guidelines, Schwartz believes that students are often confused about the qualifications for the program.

“They tell students that they have to have a minimum GPA of 2.8, but they don’t actually accept anyone with less than a 3.2,” she said. “I’ve known people with 3.8, 3.9 who have gotten denied. I think it’s because they say they want well-rounded people who have done volunteer work.”

Sheri Tratnack, a professor of psychiatric nursing, believes that one of the main problems associated with the competitiveness of the nursing program is the lack of nursing professors.

Tratnack thinks this is because nurses with advanced degrees make more money working as a nurse than as a teacher.

“You can definitely make more money in practice than in teaching,” Tratnack said, “but I love teaching. I taught undergraduate nursing before and really enjoyed it. It’s fun and it’s very enjoyable to work with students coming in.”

(JMU Breeze) Julie Sanford, head of nursing department, said this lack of professors isn’t unique to JMU. Many colleges are having a hard time meeting the demand for the educational preparation of registered nurses with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

The latest data shows that more than 67,000 qualified applications to professional nursing programs were turned away last year, including more than 11,000 applicants to graduate programs, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. 

There are currently 28 full-time nursing professors and 10 part-time professors on staff at JMU. This is drastically lower than the roughly 128 nursing professors at the University of Virginia.

In order to meet state requirements and for safety and supervision purposes, there must be a 10-1 ratio of students to faculty in the clinical classes. This means that the number of teachers directly affects the number of students that can be accepted into the program, so a shortage of teachers would mean the program has to take fewer students.

“There is definitely a shortage of nursing professors,” said Ashia McCrary, a junior nursing major. “If there were more, we would be able to have more clinical time and there would be more spots … it’s pretty competitive right now, so many people get turned away.”

There are plans currently underway to increase the nursing program, but the department won’t give details until they’re finalized.

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