Hancock begins second semester

Hancock College will in 2015 implement tougher requirements to a merit-based program that establishes direct admission into the school’s registered nursing program. 

Bonny Freidrich, chairwoman of the health and sciences department, said eligible students are guaranteed admission into the registered nursing program upon completion of certified nursing assistant (CNA) and licensed vocational nursing (LVN) programs.

But the college added a greater level of qualification that will take into account how many times students have to complete prerequisite courses to pass them.

The goal is to ensure students are prepared for the rigorous and high-demand registered nursing work.

Freidrich explained that the college also is balancing program demand with the need to provide tailored field experience.

“We want to make sure we have quality and not just quantity,” she said.

Students throughout northern Santa Barbara and southern San Luis Obispo counties return to classes this week to begin the second semester. Schools in the Santa Maria-Bonita School District open today, and students at Hancock and Cuesta colleges returned to classes Tuesday.

Deb Wulff, a vice president of Cuesta College, said biology and math classes have 135- and 160- person waitlists this semester; and Hancock students say general education courses fill up quickly.

But nursing students report yearlong waitlists to enter next phases of a three-part program in which students have to first complete the CNA program, then LVN work and, lastly, the registered nursing program.

College officials said of the 160 students who apply to the licensed vocational nursing program each year, Hancock seats about 35 students — and 36 students are placed in the registered nursing option — annually.

Miriam Martinez, 29, said she waited three years to get into the LVN program before she was placed last year.

Freidrich said the three-year waitlist is not abnormal and would not be resolved with additional courses or more funding.

She said the problem is the clinical component of the program, which matches students with working nurses in one-to-one ratios. Students rotate through emergency response, medical surgery, intensive care and other care sectors.

Hospitals cannot have an abundance of student nurses nor can they staff units with several new nurses, so training programs must respond to local need, Freidrich explained.

“You can only train so many nurses at a time,” she said.

“I believe we’re going to see a shortage again,” she added.

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