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To address a shortage of nursing faculty, Sac State is fast-tracking students into its master’s program

As a shortage of nursing faculty at colleges and universities threatens to exacerbate an ongoing nursing shortage in the U.S. health care system, Sac State is fast-tracking some students into it's Master's of Science in Nursing program to help them enter the workforce more quickly, including potentially as nursing professors. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)

Sacramento State is addressing a national shortage of nursing faculty by offering two summer courses that can fast-track some students into its master’s program.

Students who have earned an associate’s degree in nursing as well as a bachelor’s degree in any other field can be admitted directly into Sac State’s Master’s in Nursing (MSN) program by completing two “bridge” courses this summer.

Typically, students must complete a bachelor's degree specifically in nursing before enrolling in the master’s program.

The new approach will help eligible students complete the two-year MSN program in potentially as few as four semesters, allowing them to more quickly enter the workforce and pursue careers in advanced nursing roles such as faculty and leadership positions.

The Foundation for California Community Colleges awarded a total of $137,923 to Sac State and Sacramento City College for the effort, which launched in the spring of 2020 but has been stalled by COVID-19 disruptions.

The money covers tuition for the two bridge courses for 20 students, said Sac State School of Nursing Chair Tanya K. Altmann. The courses will be taught online during the first six weeks of the summer session.

Interested students must apply to Sac State and the MSN program by March 1.

“If we can get more people into our master’s program through these bridge courses, we’ll have more people who are ready to teach. We’re enrolling future nursing leaders.” -- Tanya K. Altman, chair, Sac State School of Nursing

Because nursing courses are in high demand at Sac State, students are often unable to enroll in a timely manner and pivot to community college or classes in other majors, Altmann said. Many of those students, however, could qualify for immediate entry into the MSN program.

“This grant is designed for people who wanted to be in nursing and for whatever reason didn’t get in but were able to earn a degree in another area,” she said. “The idea is to give people credit for the education they already have and move them forward.”

According to NurseJournal, faculty shortages are affecting colleges across the country, particularly in Western states such as California, where around 10% of nursing faculty positions are vacant.

The impact of those vacant positions extends to America’s health system overall, where an ongoing nursing shortage is expected to intensify as baby boomers age.

U.S. nursing schools turned away more than 90,000 qualified applicants in 2021, in part because of an insufficient number of faculty members, and are struggling to expand capacity to meet the rising demand for care. 

“If we can get more people into our master’s program through these bridge courses, we’ll have more people who are ready to teach,” Altmann said. “We’re enrolling future nursing leaders.” 

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About Cynthia Hubert

Cynthia Hubert came to Sacramento State in November 2018 after an award-winning career writing for the Sacramento Bee. Cynthia believes everyone has a good story. She lives in East Sacramento with her two cats, who enjoy bird-watching from their perch next to the living-room window.

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