After students are accepted into one of Johns Hopkins School of Nursing programs, faculty invite them back to the school to prepare for their upcoming training.
In the midst of these preparations, Marie Nolan, a professor and vice dean at the school, typically asks students what made them choose nursing.
Nursing students already have their bachelor’s degree and enter Hopkins to complete a Master of Science in nursing, post-doctoral studies, a nursing doctoral program or a Doctor of Nursing Practice to become a nurse practitioner.
Roughly 10% are from the Peace Corps or have lived abroad and see the work nurses do, from preventing infectious disease to helping with childbirth to teaching about good sanitation. They have realized that they, too, want to make a difference in people’s lives, Nolan said.
Other students are interested in medicine and perhaps shadowed a group of physicians over the summer or worked somehow in the field. These folks find that they were intrigued by what the nurses do to help patients recover functioning or stay at home and remain healthy for as long as possible.
“They quickly become captivated with just how close the nursing relationship is with patients and families and the community,” she said.
Still more students are interested in becoming leaders in their field, or want to carry out doctorate-level research projects and develop the next generation of nursing medicine. Their stories are endless, she said, but almost everyone finds a deep meaning to the field and wants to make a difference in people’s lives.
About a decade ago, Hopkins had a bachelor’s nursing program but decided its students were so bright and capable, they wanted to push them into a master’s program that lets them move more quickly into a doctoral or DNP program. Today, by the time they’re finished, they typically have a semester of credits under their belt should they choose to enroll in one of these programs.
About 300 of the school’s nursing students are enrolled in the DNP program, while there are about 75 doctoral nursing students. That population is helping feed the dearth of nursing faculty candidates the country as a whole is facing.
Meeting a critical need
Maryland is one of four states predicted to experience a shortage of 10,000 registered nurses or more by 2025, according to Larry Fillian, associate dean for student and academic services at the University of Maryland School of Nursing. State nursing programs are responding by preparing nursing students at all skill levels, with a particular focus on those with bachelor’s degrees or higher.
Data from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing shows that more than 80% of employers prefer to hire nurses with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, and more than 40% of employers require new hires to hold a baccalaureate degree.
Maryland’s BSN program reached an enrollment of 808 in 2018, a 26% increase from 641 in 2013. The school has also focused on transitioning students from the master’s to the doctoral level and has seen growth in the latter from 89 students enrolled in 2013 to 556 today, Fillian said. Candidates seeking to become nurse practitioners are also on the rise at the school.
Overall nursing enrollment at the University of Maryland has seen substantive growth of 14% during the past six years, from 1,744 in fall 2013 to 1,988 in fall 2019, he said.
Getting a job
“Job prospects are incredible,” Nolan said. Almost all students at Hopkins have jobs within six months after graduation, she said.
A typical registered nurse can make about a $65,000 starting salary, depending on the location and duties, Nolan said. A nurse practitioner can make about $120,000 to start. There are even scholarships to incentivize nurses interested in a faculty role.
Jeffrey Wiley, associate professor and director of Salisbury University’s School of Nursing, said budding nursing students have many options to get into the profession. The school offers multiple degrees, from bachelor’s degrees in nursing to DNPs, and includes pathways to higher degrees and future salaries.
Registered nurses, typically with an associate’s degree, can transfer up to 60 credits toward a bachelor’s degree in nursing. The school also offers a bachelor’s of science in nursing for those who have a different bachelor’s degree, usually with some science background, but seek to pivot into nursing.
The whole idea is to meet students where they’re at in different stages of life and ease the transition to nursing, Wiley said.
Fillian said that aside from employers seeking more nurses with bachelor’s degrees, he anticipates nurses with backgrounds in technology, nursing informatics and care coordination will be in high demand as well. The American Medical Informatics Association anticipates as many as 70,000 nursing informatics specialists will be needed in the next few years.