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Dominguez Takes Over Statewide RN Project

July 26, 1987|BOB WILLIAMS | Times Staff Writer

California State University, Dominguez Hills, is taking over a statewide program designed to upgrade the skills and professional standing of registered nurses and prepare them for a larger role in the health-care industry.

Under the program, nurses who ended their formal education with an associate in science degree are able to earn bachelor's and master's degrees through part-time courses taught by college instructors at more than 100 hospitals throughout the state.

Nurses who successfully complete their studies at the hospitals will receive their degrees from Dominguez Hills, even though they never attend classes there. Indeed, Dominguez Hills does not offer nursing classes on its campus and has no plans to start.

School Will Get More Aid

Students in the program, however, will count as part of the school's enrollment, which will mean an increase in state aid.

"Nursing today goes far beyond changing bandages and taking a patient's temperature," said Nancy Donaldson, an associate director of the program. "The need is for nurses who have the skills and breadth of knowledge required to manage all aspects of a patient's care in a high-technology setting."

Medical cost-control measures imposed in recent years also place new demands on nurses, she said. They are expected to administer or supervise treatment with greater efficiency so that hospital stays are as brief as possible.

Benefits for the nurses, she said, will include higher salaries and job prestige. "By making the nursing profession more attractive and rewarding, we can also help overcome the critical shortage of people working in this field," she said.

Demand for Nurses Soaring

Marilyn Chow, a spokeswoman for the California Nurses Assn. in San Francisco, said that by 1990 the demand for nurses with a bachelor's degree will exceed the supply by 340% at current rates of enrollment in nursing schools.

She said only 1.5 million of the nearly 2 million registered nurses actually work in the field, in large part due to low pay and heavy job demands. The national average for hospital nurse salaries is about $24,000, she said. The statewide program for advanced nursing degrees started in 1981 as part of a batch of adult education projects funded by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, according to Gary R. Levine, a Dominguez Hills vice president for academic resources.

Although the program's 17-member administrative unit was located on the Cal State Long Beach campus, degrees were administered through the chancellor's office. When the unit moves to Dominguez Hills next month, it will be part of that school and Dominguez Hills will issue the degrees.

All of the nurses signed up for the instruction--about 3,500 statewide--will be considered a part of the Carson campus' student population, Levine said.

That comes out to an equivalent of about 650 full-time students, or about 13% of the total enrollment forecast for students actually attending classes at Dominguez Hills in the 1988-89 school year, he said. State aid is based on enrollment.

"It's one of the most exciting things that has happened around here in a long time," Levine said, noting that it is the first time that an individual Cal State campus has administered a program for the entire 19-campus system.

Levine said that 1987-88 will be a transition year for the program, with students currently enrolled still receiving their degrees through the chancellor's office. He said Dominguez Hills does not have nursing courses on its campus and does not plan to offer them there.

"Accessibility is an important element in the program we will be administering," he said. "To earn the higher degrees, nurses do not have to quit their jobs and go back to college. They can get the training they need at their own or a nearby hospital and work at their own pace."

Changes in Nurse Training

In generations past, most nurses received their diplomas from hospitals after a period of apprenticeship. Training shifted in the postwar years to community colleges, where a two-year associate in arts degree qualified a nurse as "registered."

With the growing complexity of medical treatment, more nurses are seeking advanced training at four-year colleges and universities, and now about a third of nursing students obtain a bachelor's degree, according to the California Nurses Assn.

Judith Lewis, director of the statewide nursing program, said demands for better-trained nurses will lead to two levels in the field: the "professional nurse," who would have at least a bachelor's degree, and the "technical nurse," who would have an associate's degree and work under the supervision of the professional.

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