5 Strategies for Increased Community College Nursing Program Enrollment

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With the impending shortage of trained nurses – the American Nurses Association anticipates that there will be an additional 1.13 million nurses needed in the workforce by 2022 – community colleges have more opportunity than ever to educate the next generation of caregivers.

But there’s a strategy to enrolling the best and brightest nursing students into a community college LPN or LVN, ADN, or BSN (community college baccalaureate nursing degrees are currently available in 22 states) program. Read on for ideas to boost your nursing student recruitment.

1. Develop a strategic planning process

Don’t begin without a plan. Assemble a team of administrators and educators who will help facilitate your nursing enrollment plan’s development and deployment. These champions can help you build a case for expanding facilities or educational opportunities, including curriculum and competency development, program evaluation, technology purchases, and the establishment of a new baccalaureate nursing program.

2. Set realistic goals

Do your research! There are many reasons a nursing student may seek out a community college: cost, flexibility of scheduling, and location, among others. Work with your champions to ret realistic, measurable recruitment goals based on market demand, the demographics of your location, and the anticipated staffing demands of area hospitals and health centers. And don’t forget to plan for the future: how many students can you currently accommodate? How about in five years? Ten? Knowing the answers to these questions ahead of time will help you allocate appropriate funds within your program and facility.

3. Collaborate across departments

Patient safety starts with teamwork – and hospitals are inherently interprofessional work environments. Interprofessional education (IPE) encourages collaboration among healthcare learners in order to provide better care.

The need for IPE in community college settings is essential to collaborative practice in the healthcare system. Community college nursing programs can collaborate with other departments or partner with universities to provide students with IPE experiences, whether it’s in the form of logistically complex, in-person interprofessional learning events, or virtual on-demand programs that eliminate scheduling and location constraints. Prospective applicants should feel confident that their nursing program will prepare them for the demands of real-world patient care.

4. Be proactive about student retention

It’s one thing to enroll nursing students, and another thing to retain them until they graduate. Help your students meet their academic goals and clinical competencies by establishing a safe environment for skill development, backed by simulation. 

Simulation-based training has become a major component of healthcare education. In fact, a National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) study (Hayden et al., 2014) showed that up to 50% of simulated learning can be effectively substituted for traditional clinical experience in all core courses across the pre-licensure nursing curriculum without compromising learning outcomes. When recruiting nursing applicants, present the power of simulation as evidence that not only can students successfully obtain a nursing degree at a community college, they’ll be poised for employment upon graduation. And from management software to mannequins, there’s a multitude of simulation technologies to meet the needs of the modern community college nursing program.

5. Embrace the power of datac

Make time for data. Collect and monitor key indicators at each stage of the enrollment process, and maintain a comprehensive, strategic approach to using the data to make informed management decisions. Data can help you determine if you’re meeting your enrollment and retention goals, and help you plan for nursing program expansion. Student performance statistics and post-graduation employment placement records will also make a strong impression on prospective nursing applicants.

Every community college has unique challenges in identifying, attracting, and retaining nursing students. But with proper planning and program development, there’s an opportunity to turn challenge into success.

Schedule a free consultation to learn how simulation management technology can help you attract and retain nursing students at your community college.

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