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Undergraduate nursing students get a lesson on applying abdominal bandages in Cal State Fullertonís UnitedHealthcare Nursing Skills Lab. Photo by Karen Tapia

Growth Plan

University Creates School of Nursing for Expanding Program

July 7, 2010

By Mimi Ko Cruz

In the face of a nationwide nursing shortage and the country's aging population, Cal State Fullerton has established a School of Nursing. The new school is the first for Cal State Fullerton's College of Health and Human Development.

Cal State Fullerton President Milton A. Gordon said nurses and nursing schools are in “incredibly high demand, and we are creating a School of Nursing to help reduce the shortage.”

Nursing Marks a Turnaround

Nursing student Hillary Gaw gets hands on experience working on a simulated patients in the nursing lab. Photo by Karen Tapia

It's quite a turnaround for a program that the university considered eliminating 10 years ago. Today, it is the second largest in the California State University system and is slated for steady growth.

Enrollment in the university’s nursing programs grew by more than 1,200 percent between 1998 (69 nursing majors) and 2009 (857 nursing majors). By fall, the number of majors will grow to about 900, including 80 students just admitted to the program.

A decade ago, there were four nursing faculty members. Today, the nursing faculty numbers 68 professors and lecturers — 32 full time and 36 part time.

In the last few years, the Nursing Department added several degree options to bring to 10 the number of different academic pathways offered today. The new pathways include entry-level programs for students who are not nurses — a four-year bachelor of science in nursing and a master of science in nursing. In the master's program, concentrations have been expanded to include women's health care with nurse practitioner and midwifery emphases, school nursing and nurse educator.

Growth Brings Organizational Complexity

Students feel the face of a simulated patient. Photo by Karen Tapia

As the enterprise has grown, so has the complexity of its management.

With the consequent growth in enrollment, staffing, community engagement and the never-ending search for external support, the Nursing Department became too large and complex to be managed as a typical academic department, said Roberta E. Rikli, dean of the College of Health and Human Development.

“The decision to organize as a School of Nursing strengthens the administrative structure and operational effectiveness of this large and complex unit, thus facilitating its ability to meet current and future workforce needs,” Rikli noted. “It also provides greater visibility and recognition of CSUF’s nursing programs, bringing it on par with most other large nursing programs elsewhere."

Becoming a school elevates the nursing programs, increasing the opportunities to raise external funding. And, make no mistake, Rikli is quick to point out: "It will take significant external funding to cover the sizable gap between nursing program costs and funds provided by the state."

Closing the Funding Gap

For most majors, the state spends about $12,000 a year to educate a CSU student. It costs the university an additional $5,000 per year to educate a student becoming a registered nurse, Rikli said.

The school's determination to grow its grant and donor support won the endorsement of the Cal State Fullerton Philanthropic Foundation, which has identified the School of Nursing as one of seven universitywide initiatives.

"As a School of Nursing, Fullerton’s programs will compete on the same footing as those of other nursing schools, and our faculty will be better positioned for research collaboration with colleagues from other schools,” Rikli said.

CSUF’s nursing programs this year have received $5.6 million in grants, and great things are in store for the university's first formal School of Nursing, according to Gordon.

“Our nursing school could become a very significant one in this region,” he said.

A First for the CSU

Amid its goals, the new School of Nursing is preparing to be among the first in the CSU to offer a doctoral program in nursing should the state Senate pass a bill presently awaiting action. The bill, AB-867, approved last summer by the state Assembly, would authorize the CSU to offer a doctorate in nursing practice.

One of the university’s aims is to prepare more nurses to work in myriad settings, thus curbing the nation's nursing shortage, which is projected to reach 800,000 by 2020.

At present, the nationwide shortage of nurses is estimated to be 150,000, according to the Bureau of Health Professions of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In California, which ranks in the bottom five states for registered nurses per capita, the shortage is estimated to be as high as 50,000 by 2015.

Cal State Fullerton offers the following academic programs in nursing, all fully accredited by national and statewide accrediting agencies, that lead to bachelor of science or master of science degrees:

  • Prelicensure bachelor of science in nursing (four-year program starting with first-time freshmen)
  • R.N. to B.S.N. (offered on campus and at partner-based facilities, such as at Kaiser Permanente and other healthcare corporate group sites throughout the state)
  • R.N. to M.S.N. accelerated program
  • Prelicensure, or entry-level M.S.N. for students with a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field
  • Nurse anesthetist concentration
  • Nursing leadership concentration
  • Women’s health care concentration-nurse practitioner emphasis
  • Women’s health care concentration-nurse midwifery emphasis
  • School nursing concentration
  • Nurse educator concentration

Applicants for the university's nursing programs greatly exceed capacity each year. Nearly 4,000 applied in 2009 — about 50 students for each of the 80 spots available for entering students.

The new School of Nursing, which houses the state-of-the-art UnitedHealthcare Nursing Skills Lab, will be led by a director to be hired following a national search.

Meanwhile, Cindy Smith Greenberg, associate professor and, for the past two years, chair of nursing, is serving as interim director of the new school.

Media Contacts:

Mimi Ko Cruz, Public Affairs, 657-278-7586 or
Roberta E. Rikli, College of Health and Human Development or 657-278-4372 or
Cindy Smith Greenberg, School of Nursing, 657-278-3245,

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