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MU Sinclair School of Nursing adds faculty to serve students

Thursday, September 20, 2012 | 9:41 p.m. CDT; updated 2:53 p.m. CDT, Monday, September 24, 2012
Gov. Jay Nixon speaks Thursday at the MU Sinclair School of Nursing about his Caring for Missourians Initiative, established in 2009, that provides a $1 million grant for nursing education across the state for the next three years.

*Correction: Information regarding clinical classes was erroneously attributed to Judith Fitzgerald Miller in an earlier version of this story. Shoshana Herndon was the source.

COLUMBIA — MU's Sinclair School of Nursing has hired faculty in an effort to address the need for health professions in Missouri and across the country.

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Eighty percent of Missouri is a designated health professions shortage area, according to the Missouri Foundation for Health. Nevertheless, students are being turned away from nursing schools.

Each semester, 80 to 160 MU students apply to the Sinclair School of Nursing, competing for 55 available spots.

"Qualified students are not being admitted because we don't have enough faculty and enough space," Judith Fitzgerald Miller, dean of the nursing school, said. The faculty had to do some "creative planning" to increase the number of clinical classes offered to students.

*In clinical classes, students work with patients in a real health care setting such as a hospital, said Shoshana Herndon, director of communications at the nursing school.

To serve more students, the school administration made two changes: It added two full-time and one part-time teaching positions, and it added summer and evening clinical classes. This brings the school's faculty to 46 full-time and 14 part-time members, Herndon said.

The school also received a $150,000 grant through Gov. Jay Nixon's Caring for Missourians program Thursday. More than $96,000 will be used to provide scholarships for doctoral students who will become teachers of nursing and must commit to teach in Missouri for three years, Miller said. The rest of the money will be invested in a clinical lab and equipment.

The nursing school needs to maintain a 10-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio, which is half the size of the ratio for MU in general.

"These students are working with very ill patients," Miller said, and keeping the student-faculty ratio low "allows for patient safety to be a top priority."

Nurse shortage in state, country

Other nursing schools across the country are struggling to accommodate more students.

More than 75,500 qualified applicants to nursing programs in the U.S. were denied admission in 2011 due to lack of faculty and space, according to the 2011 American Associates of Colleges of Nursing Survey.

The uptick in demand for nurses stems from factors such as the aging of the nurse workforce and of the population in general, Miller said.

"As the baby boomers age, there is a greater need for health care, a greater need for health care workers," said Tracy Greever-Rice, interim director of the Office of Social and Economic Data Analysis.

People 65 or older represented 12.4 percent of the U.S. population in 2000, but are expected to grow to 19 percent of the population by 2030, according to the Administration on Aging website.

The Sinclair School of Nursing has a job placement rate after graduation of 100 percent, Miller said. And it might stay that way.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2010, the number of available jobs for registered nurses are expected to continue to grow until 2018.

Missourian reporter Dandan Zou contributed to this article.

Supervising editor is Simina Mistreanu.


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