College of the Sequoias doubled capacity and enrollment of its Registered Nursing program this semester. In response to the request from Tulare Kings Healthcare Partnership regarding the nursing shortage, COS created a plan to increase enrollment in the RN program from 50 new students in the fall of 2022 to 110 new students this month.
Tulare County Workforce Investment Board developed and convened the Tulare Kings Healthcare Partnership to address the nursing shortage. With the feedback from this employer collaborative, COS strategically worked to grow the RN program based on industry needs through a three-pronged approach over the last year: adding part-time, evening and weekend RN program; adding 40 new spots for students in the traditional program; adding 10 LVN to the RN students every fall and spring semester. COS has also developed an LVN to RN apprenticeship that will start in January 2024.
“The growth would not be possible without the cooperation with other agencies, their personnel and the fact that our faculty are terrific,” said Dr. Jonna Schengel, Dean of Nursing & Allied Health, CTE & Workforce Development at COS. “The COS RN Program has an excellent reputation and the hospitals want our students.”
Growing a registered nursing program creates new challenges for the college and clinical placement is a difficult piece of the puzzle, said Belen Kersten, Director of Nursing. Kersten, along with the Division Chair, Tina Toth and RN faculty diligently worked to secure additional clinical sites at Adventist Health Tulare, Adventist Health Hanford, Kaweah Health and Sierra View hospitals. These clinical placements were all additions to these sites and did not displace RN students from other programs, Kersten said.
Doubling a program’s capacity places strain on classroom availability. The Executive Director of California State University Fresno South Valley campus, Luz Gonzalez, graciously offered classrooms and office space to meet the growing workforce demand in healthcare. This also benefits CSU Fresno, as the college offers a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing option to the RN graduates in the area.
“COS is thankful to have strong partnerships not only with our local healthcare employers, but also with CSU Fresno; both provide multiple education and career options for our graduates within the industry,” said Schengel.
Grant monies from Nursing Growth and Strong Workforce have supported this growth with new faculty, a nursing counselor, outreach, student support and student success programs. Support is provided to pre-nursing students with Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) preparation workshops, while funding sessions for first-time test takers. The grants also support students with a state-of-the-art simulation lab and fully stocked skills labs for hands-on training. Through conferences, trainings and webinars, faculty are encouraged to gain training in the latest practices and technology within nursing through this funding.
COS welcomed all 110 new RN students to the Visalia campus this week to begin their journey into a high-wage, high-demand career within nursing, said Schengel.