Point Loma Nazarene University’s School of Nursing (SON) has offered a pre-nursing program, where undergraduate nursing students are granted full admission to the SON after completing a set of lower-division requirements, and going through an application process in their first year. However, as of Fall 2023, the SON is shifting into a direct-entry program. Nursing students will now apply to get into the SON their first year, just as other first-year students apply to the university.
The shift is partly motivated by what some students have perceived as an overly competitive atmosphere, according to SON Dean Michelle Federe Riingen. She saw students’ sense of competition in the pre-nursing program as mostly self-imposed and said the school’s transition to the direct-entry program aims to foster healthy behavior in the program with the change.
Dr. Mary Adams, the interim Associate Dean of SON and director of Innovative Learning, added to how the pre-nursing program contributed to stress among students.
“To a point, that’s just the nature of the nursing students. They’re just very high achieving students, so they’re competitive with themselves and then freshman year they’re really in competition with others to get into the program,” Dr. Adams said.
In an email interview with The Point, Kylee Kassebaum, third-year nursing major, said the pre-nursing program entry set the tone for the entire cohort of students.
“I think it is largely because, from the beginning of freshman year, we are told that we are not guaranteed a spot in the nursing program, and therefore must earn our place… after freshman year when everyone is accepted, it may be hard to get out of the freshman-year mindset because of how stressful it was,” Kassebaum said.
According to third-year nursing major Haley Long, first-year students generally wrote three personal essays, got a letter of recommendation and went through an interview to claim their spot in the nursing program, in addition to adhering to a GPA standard.
Since the application requirements have changed, Riingen said students can get into the program “…as long as they fulfill the prerequisite requirements, maintain the GPA they need to maintain, and they maintain academic honesty as well as personal conduct…and they are able to pass a background screening and a drug test.”
Although the requirements have been altered, the SON is sticking to its academic standards for current students. According to a copy of the SON handbook received from a nursing student, students can not move on to higher-level classes if they do not pass tests and quizzes with an average of 75%, and only one course may be repeated during the program’s duration.
The handbook also states: “When it is necessary to repeat any theory and/or clinical course, the student is effectively dismissed from the nursing program but with the option to reapply to the nursing program for the following term. There is no guarantee for reactivation.”
These academic guidelines, in addition to the clinical attire policy, have led students like Long to criticize the SON’s policies for being too strict. Long said she understands why long earrings or necklaces, which could catch on medical equipment, are banned, but that other elements of the SON’s policy feel unnecessary.
There are rules in the clinical attire policy against wearing patterned or colorful socks with logos, rings (including wedding rings) with stones, more than one earring per earlobe or non-stud earrings, colored shoes with more than one color and having hair that is not neatly trimmed.
Long also mentioned these resources but said she was not able to take much out of things like the resiliency class, as she felt the mindfulness curriculum did not address individual student needs. She said professors would ask students about their expectations at the beginning of the semester and either it would not work out or the feedback would be ignored.
“I feel like they set up the program to be super helpful and they want us to succeed, but when we ask for help they don’t always follow through,” Long said.
Kassenbaum, on the other hand, felt supported academically in the program. She said that, although the academic pace could be tough, it was manageable.
“Most professors are extremely helpful and approachable with any questions that I may have. There are also nursing students who have taken the course who are available to tutor anyone who may want to partake in that opportunity,” Kassenbaum said.
Riingen wants students to know the SON is working for their success. They offer resources, such as a mentor program through PLNU’s chapter of the California Nursing Students Association, tutors and are implementing an online learning resource called PrepU that individualizes and optimizes assignments with computer adaptive learning. In addition, the SON is implementing and collecting data on a built-in ‘resiliency’ curriculum to help students’ mental health in the nursing field.
“I wish they would just access resources more. And understand that we’re there for their success. We’re not out to get them, there’s a reason we have these rules, and there’s a reason why we come down so hard on them,” Riingen said.
Written By: Lily Damron