Public Universities Must Address Public Needs

The United States faces a huge shortage of nurses, general practice doctors, and, to a lesser extent, teachers, and our domestic need for each of these professions looks like it will only increase over the next few decades.

One reason why we need more nurses?  Here in California, our public schools don’t even have undergraduate nursing programs!

California has two public university systems: the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU).  The UC consists of ten campuses and, for the most part, is considered an elite public educational institution, with exceptionally high admissions standards across the board.  The CSU has 23 campuses and varies in admissions standards and academic quality, though it has some notable campuses, such as Cal Poly SLO.

There are nine University of California campuses with undergraduate programs.  Only two of these campuses offer undergraduate nursing programs: Irvine (began 2005, graduated its first class this year!) and UCLA (began Fall 2006).  UCSF, of course, has a graduate nursing program.  UC Davis’s nursing program was just approved by the UC Regents on March 19, 2009, and will start admitting doctoral and master’s students in the next few years.

Therefore, if you want to become a nurse and go to a UC other than UCLA or Irvine, you not only need to get your bachelor’s degree, but then need to go BACK to school for another certificate, which usually takes 1-2 years.  Again, it’s not like you inherently need a graduate degree to be a nurse; the vast majority of UCs just don’t offer nursing programs.

What a freaking waste of time!  The UC has the vast majority of resources it needs to offer more nursing programs.  For example, UCSD has a huge pre-med contingent (most of whom never become doctors) and THREE hospitals on the main campus, alone!  I seriously doubt that adding the few extra types of classes it would need to offer a nursing degree would be anything more than a very slight pain in the ass.

(I suspect — and I could be wrong — that one reason why UCSD is SO pre-med, and has no nursing program, is because nursing still has this stigma of being a female-dominated and/or less-desirable career than doctor-ing.  There’s this perception that nursing is a significantly lesser career path, and super easy, and not worth one’s time.  Stupid!)

The shortage of registered nurses (RNs) in the U.S. could reach as high as 500,000 by 2025 according to a report released by Dr. Peter Buerhaus and colleagues in March 2008. The report, titled The Future of the Nursing Workforce in the United States: Data, Trends and Implications, found that the demand for RNs is expected to grow by 2% to 3% each year.*  As a public university, and especially as the best public university system in the world, the University of California has the responsibility of at least providing an avenue for its students to fill job vacancies that the state desperately needs.

Public universities should provide a more direct route to pursuing careers in nursing, teaching, and other high-demand, rewarding careers.  If the UC simplified these processes, it would not only serve the public’s/economy’s needs better, but also would bolster nursing/teaching/whatever’s appeal, legitimizing said careers as well-regarded, gender-neutral (helping to eliminate the stigma of being “women’s work”), ambitious, and high-status-engendering.

*Check out http://www.aacn.nche.edu/Media/FactSheets/NursingShortage.htm for more stats on the US’s nursing shortage and its repercussions.

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