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Nursing program opens additional slots for students

January 1, 2011

The Central Wyoming College nursing department is working toward fulfilling a campaign promise of increasing enrollment by adding eight more students to next fall’s first-year nursing class.
Though the Health and Science Center that voters approved last fall is not yet under construction, nursing program director Kathy Wells said her faculty will teach in cramped instructional space until the facility is completed in fall of 2013.
During the bond election campaign for the Health and Science Center, CWC pledged it would eventually double the enrollment of the nursing program. The 2011 freshman class increases from 32 to 40 students on the main CWC campus. Eight students are also admitted to the CWC nursing program in Jackson.
The Health and Science Center project also addresses the college’s desperate need for larger, up-to-date science labs. To deal with the science lab overcrowding issues, the nursing admissions prerequisites required applicants to have already completed lab-based anatomy and physiology courses.
“We are keeping our word of increasing our enrollment,” Wells said, explaining the “main push” for beginning the process early was to limit the impact on her department’s seasoned faculty.
“New faculty requires a lot of mentoring and support, especially in the first year,” she explained. “We couldn’t effectively train a lot of faculty at the same time.” The Wyoming State Board of Nursing requires that there is one faculty member for every eight students.
“We wanted to avoid bringing on a number of brand new faculty at the same time we were transitioning into the new building,” she said.
The Wyoming Investment in Nursing program, established by the Wyoming Legislature to alleviate a severe nursing shortage in Wyoming, pays the new faculty salaries to a nursing program that can admit additional students.
Acceptance into the CWC nursing program is highly competitive, and CWC has had as many as 300 declared pre-nursing majors at one time. During the most recent admissions cycle for the nursing program, CWC initiated a requirement for applicants to take the TEAS (Test of Essential Academic Skills).
“The quality of our applicant pool was much better with the academic pre-application testing requirements that we added,” Wells said. She also sees the pre-application testing improving the retention of nursing students.
The pre-test also weeded out applicants who are not serious about enrolling at CWC yet they apply because the college does not charge an application fee. The change in admission requirements also increased the percentage of applicants from within Fremont County and the state, Wells said.
In the past, finding qualified faculty to teach in the nursing program has always been a challenge, yet CWC’s reputation for innovative instruction has increased inquiries, she said.
“The faculty is much more engaged,” Wells explained. “I also think that we are better at supporting and mentoring new faculty and CWC has become a very attractive place for experienced nurses to teach.”
A federal grant has allowed the college to develop a Virtual Medical Skills lab, which coupled with the nursing faculty’s innovative approaches to instruction has piqued interest by potential nursing faculty. The grant also provided for additional computers for nursing students to take their exams. With the additional students the lab will be at over capacity, but Wells believes “we’ll be able to cover that. We are going to have to be very creative for skills practice and student check off for procedures,” she added.
Wells left the final decision of admitting additional students into the program before the Health and Science Center was completed up to her instructors. She said the faculty is looking at creative ways to handle the extra students in cramped instructional space. Wells said her teachers also feel that they are in the position now to begin supporting an additional faculty member.
The nursing instructors will also play an important role in the programming as well as in the design of the new Health and Science Center. The instructional and lab space design will depend heavily on the input from science and nursing faculty.
Wells was on the committee which recommended the hiring of architectural and engineering firms on the project.