Texas' nursing shortage is so extreme that Dr. Susan Baker, director of Texas A&M International University's Dr. F.M. Canseco School of Nursing, receives daily mailers offering nurses signing bonuses from $3,000 to $8,000. Recently she received one offering $40,000.
Although Dr. Baker views that last one with some skepticism, ("There's probably some catch so that no one actually qualifies for that amount of money," she said), she agrees that the time for nurses is now and is confident that TAMIU offers some of the best preparation available.
For the 2001-2002 academic year, 95 percent of Canseco Nursing School graduates passed the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), required for entry into practice as a Registered Nurse. The May 2002 class has a 100 percent first-time pass rate. With numbers like these, it's no surprise that other schools want to know TAMIU's secrets.
"The numbers are exceptional, particularly for a school with a high percentage of minority and disadvantaged students," said Baker, "Recently we presented at the National League for Nursing meeting in Anaheim, California our strategies for creating successful graduates. We were also asked to present on the same topic to Florida International University."
Baker believes several core features allow TAMIU students to excel and become professional stars.
"The University's mission as a teaching institution is extremely critical to the success of our program," Baker said, "Working with students is extremely time and labor intensive, and if the faculty has to focus on research, they won't have the kind of time necessary. In the same vein, the faculty workload is a key to our success. They have enough time to ensure students are getting needed attention. Team-teaching enriches the classroom and allows each faculty member to teach content in their area of interest and expertise."
Other important factors include the school's curriculum distribution.
"There's pressure to put all nursing classes in the upper division. At TAMIU, we start our nursing students in the Spring of their sophomore year, which gives them two extra semesters-Spring and Summer-to get their work done. It makes success possible," said Baker.
She explained that the TAMIU nursing curriculum also includes a comprehensive review course and an exit exam, plus 1,100 hours of hands-on clinical experience.
"We teach test-taking strategies and incorporate test reviews, both for content and to improve students' test-taking strategies. We also offer structured learning sessions and tutoring," said Baker.
She said structured supplemental learning activities, such as time for food, computer fun and instructional films outside of class, help disadvantaged students who are often visual learners. The films and computer "games" can clarify information in a way that reading text will not, said Baker.
"The sessions are put on the printed course schedule so that children, spouses, and employers will respect them. At first I thought students would rebel, but they appreciate it. I asked the students in Florida what they would think about something like that and they said they would feel the same way, that it would be a great help to them.," said Baker.
Continually increasing the level of training nursing students receive, TAMIU students now have the opportunity to do intensive specialized clinicals out of town.
"This year, since there's no children's hospital in Laredo, students in child health nursing are going to Corpus Christi to Driscoll Children's Hospital for a 30-hour intensive clinical. Basic students also attend week-long inpatient psychiatric clinical experiences at San Antonio State Hospital and RN/BSN students have had clinical training in the Level 1 Trauma Center at Ben Taub Hospital in Houston," said Baker.
The School also helps its students succeed by offering grants for the examination and licensure fees through the generous support of the community.
"The fact that our community supports us with scholarship funds and discretionary scholarship funds means that we can use the money for testing and licensure fees. Studies have shown that the longer a student waits to take the NCLEX-RN, the worse his or her results will be. Therefore, it's extremely important that we can help the students out with these fees, so they will test right after they graduate," explained Baker.
In summation, Baker says there are four elements critical to the school's outstanding results: student determination, faculty dedication, administrative support and community commitment.
In combination, these factors nurture a successful program and successful graduates who know what they want out of life.
For more information about the Canseco School of Nursing, please contact Dr. Susan Baker at 326.2450, visit offices in the Dr. F.M. Canseco Hall, room 315 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. University office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.