Dozens of Nursing Students Face Delays

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Dozens of nursing students were delayed in being placed in clinicals, an issue the program’s director attributed to hospitals’ limited capacities. WILLIAM WIN/FOGHORN

Last semester, nursing students lost out on hours of clinical experience, which USF’s School of Nursing and Health Professions attributed in part to a nationwide shortage of instructors.

Now, the problem has persisted into this semester. At least 24 nursing students, and possibly more, will have to make up lost hours after facing delays in placements at hospitals. Four nursing students and one faculty member confirmed the number of students affected.

The nursing school dean, Margaret Baker, said in an interview that all students are now placed in a clinical after the delays.

“The semester has been a whole disaster, with a lot of confusion and ambiguity,” a nursing student said, who requested anonymity. “A lot of us have concern[s] about fulfilling our hour requirements to the Board of Registered Nursing, and we have not received any statement from USF on how this affects us.”

Clinical experience, one of the main aspects of nursing education, is when students get hands-on practice in an actual hospital.

Scott Ziehm, who oversees pre-licensure programs at USF, explained that hospitals in the state of California have been taking fewer nursing students. Their capacities are affected by renovations, mergers or accreditations, he said. This was confirmed by a representative from the Nursing Department of California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC), a new hospital in the city that just underwent a merger and renovation.

“I get the frustration,” Ziehm said.

Dean Fryer, a CMPC spokesperson, said that the merger between the Pacific campus and the California campus to form the Van Ness site affected their capacity. CPMC took in 68 USF students last semester, and 40 this semester. “During this transition, we were temporarily limiting the number of nursing students we brought in,” Fryer said.

According to an article by Lippincott Nursing Education, a global nursing and medical information and consulting resource, there is a nationwide shortage of clinical opportunities for nursing students. The shortage has led nursing programs across the country to take in fewer students and limit their enrollment. At the current rate, Lippincott Nursing Education expects the shortage of nurses nationwide to grow to 260,000 by 2025.  

This is compounded by the shortage of USF nursing faculty available to teach clinicals, according to a September 2018 Foghorn article.

Ziehm emphasized the importance of having nursing students practice their skills within a simulation center, which is an alternative to clinical practice. “In the Simulation Center,” according to USF’s website, “nursing students interact with state-of-the-art mannequins that simulate symptoms and conditions specific to real-life patients and scenarios.”

Junior Janelle Malonzo said that her clinical experience was delayed by a month this semester. She missed out on 24 to 32 hours out of the 180 hours she needs to complete this semester in order to graduate. Malonzo was assigned a clinical for Fridays after a month of having three days off.

“It gave me a lot of free time, however, I felt like I was missing out on my nursing experiences and was in constant fear as to how I would be able to make up these hours,” Malonzo said. “ It was just really frustrating, because I felt like I was lacking in experience compared to my other peers and that I was missing out on hours to learn and practice my skills in a hospital setting.”

Malonzo said she and other students have not yet been informed on how or whether they will make up those hours.

The nursing school is trying to support students by giving them an assigned direct point of contact for questions and hosting forums for students to express their concerns. Ziehm also said the faculty have been meeting more often than in the past to discuss the concerns of students expressed in the forum.

Both Malonzo and the anonymous student said that they had not heard the reasons why hospitals were not taking nursing students.

The anonymous student sent an email to Baker and received a response stating: “Our seven-person faculty, staff and administrator team continues to devise creative solutions to move us past some of the external system issues, so that you all can get what you need to meet course objectives and have a good experience. Your faculty person as your point person will continue to update you as we resolve barriers.”

“USF administration has been negligent in communicating with its faculty and students,” the student said. “At this point, the clinical situation is so confusing that people have just accepted we are not going to get much clinical experience.”

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