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Students Are Earning Second Degrees to Enter Nursing

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Posted: 8/18/2006

More than two thirds of students entering the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing (JHUSON) traditional baccalaureate Class of 2008 already hold a bachelor's degree and a substantial number have previously pursued other careers before choosing nursing.

One hundred and seven (70%) of the 153 nursing students entering the traditional program this fall hold bachelor's degrees, and nine have graduate degrees.  That graduate degree trend is echoed in the JHUSON accelerated program which offers an intense 13-month course of study to those who already hold a bachelor's.  Among the Accelerated Class of 2007 that started in June, 12% of the 165 students hold advanced degrees, including two who have earned a PhD.

The new JHUSON baccalaureate students also are older, with the eldest in both classes in their late 50s.  The average age in each class is 27.  Most have prior work experience, in a variety of settings and in diverse fields. Forty-three are returning Peace Corps volunteers who served in countries literally from Albania to Zambia.  Others have had careers in video production, finance, military research, non-profit organization administration, teaching, television news broadcasting, bioinformatics, lighting design, and athletic training, among others.  One student practiced law for 25 years, another worked with underserved immigrant populations in Oakland, CA's Chinatown.

Their reasons for pursuing nursing-and for making a career change-are varied.  The current JHUSON online poll asks visitors "Why did you choose nursing?" and mirrors the answers given by most entering students.  Nearly half of the poll respondents indicate they have made the decision to help and care for others; many others identify an interest in health sciences and the wide range of career options available in the field.  Few cite the increased salary potential and job security created by the nursing shortage.

The entering Accelerated Class of 2007 is the largest ever admitted to the School, while the Traditional Class of 2008 repeats the record-breaking size of the Traditional Class of 2007.  JHUSON Dean Martha N. Hill, RN, PhD, FAAN, and her colleagues see the increasing numbers of nursing applicants and the second degree/career change trend evident at Hopkins as a demonstrable response to opportunities within the field of nursing.  In a recent address to graduating students, Hill noted  that nursing today "offers challenging positions that can lead anywhere-from local to global-in any geographic region, national or internationally, and in various settings-home, community, clinic, hospital, academies, research, military, corporate America, government…and the list goes on."