AUSTIN (KXAN) — Two college seniors at Concordia University Texas are so close to the finish line.
“I’ve wanted to be a nurse since I was eight years old,” said Katie Schmidt. “When my little brother was born.”
She and her friend Sabrina Lawlor have spent nearly four years pursuing their childhood dreams. “No one in my family is a nurse, but my dad started going to physical therapy school,” said Lawlor. “He started opening up the anatomy textbooks and just started showing me some things in the books, and I was like this is pretty cool.”
They are well aware of the nursing shortage nationwide, and growing demand for their skills in Central Texas.
According to the Austin Chamber of Commerce January jobs report, there are more than 1,600 local job openings for registered nurses.
“Students will say, ‘What’s your major?’ I’m [in] nursing,” said Lawlor. “They’re like, ‘Wow you’ll have a job right out of school!'”
Concordia will be offering a new Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program to get registered nurses in the field faster. “Part of it right now is the aging population, and the amount of chronic illness that is in the population,” said Dr. Kathy Lauchner, Ph.D., R.N., director of Concordia’s School of Nursing.
The regular BSN program takes two academic years to complete, which includes a summer off in the middle. Starting in August, students accepted into the fast-track program will be able to take coursework online, complete the same clinical hours, and skip the summer off.
“They gotta go faster, work harder and work quicker,” said Dr. Lauchner. “They will graduate a semester earlier, consequently they will be employable a semester earlier.”
It also means they will start getting paychecks about five months sooner which could put an additional $25,000 in their pocket.
“Probably about 50 percent of our class would’ve really appreciated the accelerated program,” said Schmidt.
The accelerated program is not necessarily geared toward students like Schmidt and Lawlor, who attended Concordia fresh out of high school.
The ideal candidates are those with degrees who are looking to change careers, or students with some pre-requisites under their belts.
Lauchner says the information line has been ringing off the hook, and they are adding another person to the call center. Concordia is looking to accept between 18 and 25 students for the first semester, and add a new group of students every semester after that.
Outlook for other Central Texas nursing programs
Other local community colleges and universities that offer nursing programs typically have to turn students away.
For the 2016-2017 school year, Austin Community College tells KXAN they received 389 applications for its nursing program which enables students to earn an Associates degree.
The school admitted just over 300.
At the University of Texas in Austin out of about 2,000 people who apply for their undergraduate nursing program, only 120 freshman are selected.
UT Austin does offer an accelerated Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) program, but not a fast-track program for a BSN.