Nursing a career

Feb. 29, 2008, midnight | By Susie Branson | 13 years, 9 months ago

Catholic University introduces new program to promote nursing

In the back of Blair's Career Center, a woman with straight brown hair sits patiently in front of a group of five eager girls. Spread before them is a wide variety of colorful flyers and pamphlets addressing a topic that will eventually affect every American. As a warm smile spreads across her face, registered nurse Megan Matthews begins to share the passion and experiences of her career and the reason for her visit - to help curb the shortage of nurses.

Photo: Megan Matthews, a registered nurse, shares her passion with Blazers at lunch.

The Vanderbilt Medical Center (VMC) estimates a shortage of 340,000 nurses by the year 2020, three times larger than any shortage ever experienced in the United States. This need for nurses has steadily grown since World War II, due to increases in population, lifespan, income and health insurance coverage. The demand, driven by the aging baby boomer population of approximately 78 million Americans, is expected to further escalate over the next two decades, according to VMC.

Maryland currently faces a shortage of 10,000 nurses as more of the nursing workforce is starting to retire, according to The Washington Post. Determined to fight this statistic, the U.S. government is providing grants to institutions such as Catholic University's Latino Nursing Career Opportunity Program (LNCOP), which exposes nursing careers to students at ten different high schools, including Blair, in Montgomery County and the District of Columbia.

Healthy obsession

The LNCOP is a six-year-old program, funded by a $2.3 million government contract, designed to increase the interest of high-school students in pursuing nursing careers through various hands-on opportunities. To explain these opportunities and the appeals of nursing, Matthews meets with Blair students in the Career Center every Friday during 5A and 5B.

Photo: Matthews comes prepared with flyers promoting nursing.

Although it is specifically designed to prepare Latino students to successfully complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (B.S.N.), the program is open to all students who express an interest in nursing or other areas of health care. Participants in LNCOP not only discuss future opportunities in the nursing field, but also prepare for college by finding scholarship and funding opportunities.

Junior Annie Biondokin has always wanted to become involved in health care, but was not sure which field to pursue. "Talking with Ms. Matthews made me realize that nursing is the right career choice for me. She really helped to express the appeals and the benefits of working as a nurse," Biondokin says.

Laurie Derry, a certified registered nurse of 22 years working at Holy Cross Hospital, says that such programs are essential to the improvement and maintenance of the nursing profession. "It's so important that students understand what being a nurse entails. This career is more than just a salary; nursing is such an integral part of health care and it is such a great, flexible career. The LNCOP is a great opportunity that all students should take advantage of," Derry says.

Photo: Matthews talks to a student one-on-one about the possibilities of a career in nursing.

According to Matthews, the LNCOP hopes to increase student interest by arranging for participants to meet nurse mentors, visit hospitals and universities, engage in community service and attend conferences and workshops. "The LNCOP is really just trying to spread the word of nursing around to more students as they start thinking about future careers," says Matthews. "It's just so important that this nursing shortage is filled within the next decade, or our health care system will greatly suffer because of it."

Help care with health care

Blazers involved in the LNCOP find the experience extremely rewarding and helpful. Apart from Biondokin, senior Su Hyun is also grateful that the program provided her with valuable information regarding various career choices in the health care field. "It is so nice to have someone who is actually qualified as a nurse come and give advice as well as explain the career from a first-hand perspective," Hyun says. "As a senior, this program has influenced me in that I make sure the schools I am applying to have a nursing program just in case I decide I want to pursue it in a couple of years."

The following Thursday arrives as another cluster of eager high school students huddle around colorful pictures and flyers explaining and promoting the rewards of nursing. As mouths fly open to ask about the various opportunities nursing has to offer, Matthews glances around the table at the group and has faith that the shortage of nurses will eventually decrease with the dedication of students and nurse-promotion programs like LNCOP.

Susie Branson. Key facts of Susie Branson: she's a junior in CAP, her favorite food is peanut butter, she plays soccer and lacrosse, she can't stand talking on the phone, loves country music, and her favorite ice cream is Phish Food. She is way too competitive for … More »

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