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San Marcos helping to treat nursing shortage

With two innovative universities, San Marcos is North County’s education hub, including in an increasingly vital area: nursing.

Post Date:03/23/2017 8:15 AM

San Marcos helping to treat nursing shortageHealthcare experts are bracing for a national nursing shortage due an aging population—often dubbed the “Silver Tsunami.” That means the future nurses being educated at Palomar Community College and California State University (CSUSM) are more important than ever.

Collectively, these San Marcos schools produce about 320 nurses every year who are ready for the workforce—about 260 graduated from CSUSM last year, and 60 graduated from Palomar College. 

As one example of San Marcos leading the way, Palomar College’s Nursing Education Department Chair Karen Donovan pointed to the department’s geriatric component, which exposes students to senior citizens in their homes, adult daycares, nursing facilities, outpatient clinics and hospice.

“Our students are prepared to care for patients across the entire lifespan,” Donovan said.

Training the next generation of nurses is critical given health care experts’ staggering prognosis. By 2025, the nursing shortfall could be “more than twice as large as any nurse shortage experienced since the introduction of Medicare and Medicaid in the mid-1960s,” according to research by Vanderbilt University. By 2030, California is expected to be more than 193,000 nurses short of its needs, according to the Nurse Workforce Report Card.

Driving this nursing demand, is a senior population that’s growing at an unprecedented rate.

Consider this: America is home to about 48 million senior citizens—but that’s expected to nearly double over the next three decades and jump to 88 million by 2050, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.  The trend is also playing out in San Marcos. In 2012, there were 10,476 residents 65 and older—yet by 2050, that number will be about 19,770, according to data from the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG). 

The solution, like many things, is rooted in education — and San Marcos is a regional leader with well-regarded nursing programs.

CSUSM’s School of Nursing is ranked 12th out of more than 127 nursing schools in California. Palomar’s Nursing Education Department has maintained a 95 percent pass rate on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), more than 13 percent higher than the 2016 national average.  

“The educational preparation is difficult because the community counts on us, and the responsibilities are life-changing,” Donovan said. 

Many of Palomar’s students continue their education at CSUSM, and therefore the two San Marcos institutions collaborate closely. For example, the schools created a roadmap so students can be sure they earning the right credits to easily transfer into CSUSM’s four-year degree program. 

“One of the ways that we can help meet the shortage of nurses is to ensure that those who enter CSUSM’s nursing programs are prepared for success in their coursework so they can graduate on time,” said Dr. Denise Boren, Director of CSUSM’s School of Nursing.

Another source of future nurses is local healthcare providers. Some employers—including North County Health Services (NCHS) here in San Marcos—encourage medical assistants to continue their education and become registered nurses. At NCHS, aspiring nurses are given on-the-job mentorships, tuition reimbursement and flexible scheduling so they can attend college classes.

According to NCHS, in 2016 it provided healthcare to nearly 15,000 San Marcos residents.  As San Marcos grows and changes, NCHS President & CEO Irma Cota said the organization is already thinking about how to best serve the city’s future population.

“Having a city that is so innovative and strategic is so important to NCHS to ensure together we can continue to serve our communities,” she said. 

Tess Radmill, Economic Development Manager for the City of San Marcos, echoes those thoughts—pointing out that ultimately, the city, Palomar, CSUSM and NCHS are all working to serve the same population.

“Increasingly, our region will need a workforce that’s ready to provide quality healthcare. We’re proud that San Marcos is home to industry leaders who are helping to ensure that happens,” she said.

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