Baylor Nursing School Accreditation Extended; Students Wait-Listed

June 8, 2005

by Judy Long

Undergraduate and master's nursing accreditation at Baylor University's Louise Herrington School of Nursing has been extended by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, said Dr. Judy Wright Lott, dean of the School of Nursing. Baylor's School of Nursing is one of a few schools given ten-year accreditation after meeting rigorous requirements. These schools file a continuous improvement progress report at the five-year point, and Baylor has been notified that its programs continue to meet all accreditation requirements. Nursing schools generally meet the board once every five years.

Baylor became one of the first schools to be judged by the new standards adopted by the CCNE in January 2005. Standards changed to meet new requirements by the U.S. Department of Education to respond to changes in the profession and continue the ongoing task of quality improvement.

Lott was pleased to receive approval from the CCNE, though she was not surprised, as Baylor's nursing school standards often exceed state-mandated standards. "We like to maintain a student teacher-ratio of eight-to-one in the clinical area to assure that students receive ample instruction," Lott said, noting that Texas mandates a ratio of no more than 10-to-one.

The most recent ranking of nursing schools in the U.S. News & World Report's "Best Graduate Schools," in 2003, placed the School of Nursing at 58th nationally in master's degree programs.

The school's reputation is one of several factors that have lead to increased applications for the nursing school. "Some of those are publicity about the increasingly severe nursing shortage, positive promotions about the role of nursing, excellent opportunities for diverse careers, and improved salaries as healthcare agencies try to fill vacant nursing positions," Lott said.

However, a limitation to nursing school enrollment is a shortage of qualified faculty, which is complicated by many factors, Lott said. Increasing age of existing nursing faculty, fewer young nurses entering academia and greater opportunities and higher salaries in clinical agencies have limited nursing faculty. As a result, the nation-wide nursing faculty shortage complicates the chronic nursing shortage.

Baylor's nursing school has a total of 33 full-time faculty. Part-time clinical faculty also teach clinical rotations.

For the Fall 2005 semester, the School of Nursing has accepted 75 new juniors. Fifteen students have been placed on a waiting list.

The School of Nursing admits students in fall and spring, so students who do not get admitted for fall have an opportunity to be admitted in the spring. In the past, nursing classes were approximately 50 percent Baylor students and 50 percent transfer students. "This was necessary to fill the slots, but it also added diversity to the class composition. For the 2005 fall class, the percentage of transfer students is less than 20; we limited transfer admission to those with GPAs of 3.5 or higher to accommodate more Baylor students. This is an area that we are discussing with enrollment management and the university administration," she said.

Lott regrets having to turn away qualified students, but she said many nursing schools have to do that in the current situation, due to lack of faculty, inadequate classroom and laboratory space, and increased demand for clinical facilities for nursing clinical experiences.

Approximately 120 students have declared nursing as their major in the fall 2005 freshman class. Students can increase their chances for admission by maintaining a high cumulative and science GPA, Lott said.

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