Impacted Sac State nursing program’s limited enrollment requires ‘perfectionists’

Program is the 14th highest rated in California


Eucario Calderon

Photo illustration. The nursing program at Sac State is extremely competitive, accepting a maximum of 80 students per semester. While the GPA requirement for admission is a minimum of 3.3, the average GPA for those admitted the last four years has been over 3.95.

Sacramento State’s nursing program is one of the school’s most competitive and impacted majors on campus and is the 14th highest rated nursing program in California, but despite the programs’ popularity, it only allows up to 80 students a semester to be admitted.

That number has stayed the same since at least 2012.

“Every student has to do clinical. I can only bring 9 students at a time and they have to do a certain number of hours,” said Bridget Parsh, a professor in the nursing program. “There’s also only a limited number of hospitals for all these students who apply.”

Students in the program cited the clinical work requirement as a big reason why the major is so impacted and the number of students is so limited.

“With those 80 students, we split them up, and each group has to go to each different hospital to work with patients,” said Alyssa Francis, a nursing major in her third semester. “And so it’s about the contracts we have with other hospitals, so I don’t know if adding 10 more spots would make that much of a difference for the competition.”

RELATED: Sac State ranked one of top nursing programs in California

Shannon Wills, a nursing major in her second semester echoed the idea that facilities are the limiting factor.

“That would be great if (the program) could grow but it all depends on being able to have a facility to provide for the students,” Wills said. “Also clinical placements, it’s hard to manage 80 students at hospitals at a time.”

Not only is there a limited amount of hospitals and resources for applicants to be assigned to and make use of, but students must excel in their classes to make it through the program. The average “adjusted” GPA for the 76 students that were enrolled for last spring semester was reported at 3.995.

The average TEAS, or Test of Essential Academic Skills, score was 91.75% last spring. The TEAS is an assessment designed specifically to test students in the health field, and must be taken as part of the admission process. It is comprised of 170 questions set up in a multiple-choice format. Questions are designed to test the basic academic skills students will need to perform in class in the areas of reading, math, science, English and language usage.

“You basically have to be a perfectionist for the two years prior to getting in. You need a 4.0 GPA. You need better than a 92-93% on the TEAS,” said Kayliana Van Winkle, a nursing major in her second semester. “You should be able to speak a different language, you should possibly have volunteer experience, 40-100 hours in the previous year, it helps if you get extra points.”

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The nursing program takes into account factors other than just test scores and GPA, including background and language skills, but does not include a personal essay or interview.

“(At) Sac State the program is not strictly numbers,” said Lyna Khuu, a nursing major in her third semester. “It would be nice if that had a little short prompt for us to write about so that they could see our personality as a whole, because nursing is a lot about skills but it is also about the person you are like why you want to do this and to take care of others.”

Students suggested other more personal aspects of the application process that could be added in addition to an essay prompt.

“You need people skills. I definitely think that would be a good idea to do interviews or recommendations to feel like the more personal side of things,” Francis said. “I feel like that would be a really good idea.”

When asked if there should be more elements added to the application process, first semester nursing major Daniel Schmitgal said personalizing the application process could potentially allow for a more diverse group of applicants to be accepted.

“I do think it would be helpful to add some more elements to bring in a little more diversity,” Schmitgal said. “This is a diverse group, don’t get me wrong, but I have noticed there are certain populations that aren’t a big part of our groups. I think adding more along the lines of an interview would be pretty helpful.”

The competitive nature of the program has made some feel that there is a risk that the type of person admitted may not always be well-rounded.

“When you take people who are all perfectionists, it doesn’t create a very well-balanced, diverse team,” Van Winkle said. “You need to be able to look at the holistic person and what other extracurricular activities are they involved in, because when you get into the field, you want a well-diversified, well-balanced team that’s not so cutthroat”.

Another reason the major is so competitive is the job market and the post-grad life of a nurse. Nurses require a lot of clinical practice and many travel all around the country to gain more experience. This, in turn, affects faculty numbers, as students don’t generally come back to teach.

Finding former nurses who are willing and interested in becoming educators is a barrier in the potential growth of the program.

“The faculty we have is amazing, but we’d like to get more faculty of course,” Parsh said. “We’d like to get people interested (in teaching, but) the salary is just not what it is (working in the field). Hospital jobs are way more rewarding.”

The national job market for nurses is expected to grow by 12 percent from 2018 to 2028 according to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics.

However, some students say the market to work in Sacramento as a nurse is overly  competitive.

“I think it’s horrible, I think it’s so bad,” Francis said. “I feel like new grads are having a really hard time, especially Sacramento area because we are so populated and experienced nurses are coming from everywhere and coming here to Sacramento because we have really high paying jobs.”

One thing that is clear when talking to nursing students at Sac State is that the nursing program has a great environment, and is widely considered to be something special and prestigious to be apart of.

“I love the clinical aspect, so hands-on learning. The facility is really inclusive and there for you so they have your back,” Wills said. “You form really strong bonds with your classmates. They kind of become your second family.”