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More freshmen declare pre-nursing as major

Oct. 1, 2003

By Elvia Aguilar, reporter

Emergency rooms have been shut down, surgeries have been postponed or delayed and some patients have not received the care they need. Those situations may sound like the latest ER episode, but they are just a few of the problems hospitals throughout the nation are facing because of a nurse shortage.

According to CBSnews.com, about 120,000 positions are open for registered nurses nationwide, a drastic shortage by some standards. In the face of the nationwide nurse scarcity, Baylor has reported its largest class of pre-nursing freshmen with 100 students declaring pre-nursing as their major this fall.

'We are very excited to see our numbers increase, especially since there is such a great demand for nurses,' Diana Kohler, coordinator of pre-nursing, said.

The Louise Herrington School of Nursing usually admits 72 students per semester, for both transfer and Baylor pre-nursing students. Kohler said she hopes to see the numbers continue to increase to help alleviate some of the shortage problems.

Some groups have taken action against the shortage.

A University of Pennsylvania study showed a direct link between nursing shortages and the increase of patient deaths. This led state legislatures to try to restrict the number of hours nurses are required to work and increase the number of nurses on each shift. There also are proposals for scholarship money and student loans to help encourage students to choose a career in nursing.

Royce Goforth, nurse recruiter for Providence Health Center, said she was glad to hear the higher enrollment numbers for Baylor because Providence constantly tries to attract people into the field.

'Providence and other hospitals have started the recruiting process for potential nurses in high schools, junior high schools and even elementary schools because we need more nurses,' Goforth said. 'I am glad the numbers are increasing, but there is still work to be done.'

Goforth said the nurse shortage problem was far from being over, and Kohler agreed.

'Certain hospitals and companies have started recruitment overseas in areas like Ireland, Canada, Philippines and India,' Kohler said.

But pre-nursing students like Amy Hinkelman and Jackie Conlon, who have always dreamed of being nurses, think the future is bright.

'With today's economy and the need for nurses, I think that I could be a nurse pretty much anywhere,' Conlon, a Lorena freshman, said.

Pre-nursing students attend classes on Baylor's Waco campus for two years before transferring to the Louise Herrington School of Nursing in Dallas for their junior and senior nursing classes.

'I am not really sure where I will end up after graduating, but I am sure I will find something,' Hinkelman, a Granbury freshman, said.

Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center spokesman Adam Price said he is glad to hear students are excited about the nursing field.

'It's encouraging to hear that people are taking this important field to heart and dedicating their lives to it,' Price said. 'We can always use more nurses.'