ST PAUL, Minn. — Imagine walking into your class on the first day of your nursing program, and walking out just 16 months later, ready to provide care to real patients with a Bachelor of Science in nursing.
For students at Concordia University in St. Paul, it's a reality--part of a new, Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program launched this summer. Twenty-one students started in their inaugural class in the summer, and 10 others, including Samuel Master, began this fall.
"I think now our society needs care more than ever," said Master. "So far, I can only say I wish I had done it sooner."
Master, 34, already has a bachelor's degree. Like several in the program, he is a career changer.
"I currently work in the med device field...but I wanted something that was more patient-oriented," he said.
He admits the program has been intense.
"It’s really important for me to really understand the material and get it down," Master said. "I am learning so much so quickly. It’s very fast-paced."
University administrators hope the new program will address the nationwide and local nursing shortage, which is expected to increase through the year 2030.
"There’s a need for nurses here in the Twin Cities," said Kendra Saal, track chair of Concordia's nursing department. "We needed a fast track way to be able to get students into that role as a professional nurse."
The program starts three times a year, and currently doesn't have a waitlist. Students need to have 60 credits to enroll, and Saal says they should be self-starters.
"It’s 16 months, so it is intense," she said. "So the student needs to be ready to go. We’re there to help motivate and cheer them along and help them along the way, but in that 16-month time they're doing over 700 clinical and simulation hours that prepare them to be ready."
The program is welcome news to Concordia University's clinical partners like Crescent Cove, a pediatric care organization in Brooklyn Center. The nonprofit offers respite and end-of-life care to families of children who experience life-limiting medical conditions, all free of charge.
"We’re trying to increase our staff; we were trying to increase staff prior to COVID," said Kathryn Koehne, director of nursing and operations. "Some of [our] nurses, they’ve had to stay home with their own children. So they’ve reduced their hours, although we’ve not lost any staff."
Koehne believes an accelerated program like the one Concordia offers may attract students for whom nursing is truly a calling.
"COVID really put our profession in front of people that were maybe teleworking that never considered working," said Koehne. "They saw it at its roughest, so if they’re feeling drawn to practice nursing even under the conditions that they saw, I think we’re drawing some really great, strong candidates, into our profession which I’m very grateful for."