Filling a Need

Filling a Need

Polk State College Program Fights Nursing Shortage

by JULIE GMITTER
photos PROVIDED BY POLK STATE COLLEGE

Advances in technology have revolutionized our world and few industries are unchanged by these advances. The healthcare industry is no exception. As a result of these advances in technology, some industries have become completely obsolete, whether the jobs have been taken over by automated systems, or even replaced by robots! 

However, nursing continues to be one of the most in-demand fields in the healthcare industry, and it certainly takes a very special type of individual to be a nurse. The amount of knowledge, compassion, empathy, and quick decision making skills that go into being a nurse make it a challenging but rewarding career path. Those special types of individuals are few and far between, unfortunately, despite the nurse shortage in hospitals and clinics across the country. 

However, through its nursing program Polk State College has made, and continues to make, a very substantial contribution to the number of nurses who are employed today in Polk County’s healthcare industry and beyond. In fact, it is estimated that over 60% of the registered nurses in the county are graduates of the Polk State College nursing program! 

Established in 1965, the Polk State Nursing Program was created to help respond to the community’s growing healthcare needs. The Associate in Science in Nursing Program received initial accreditation from the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) in 1985 and has maintained accreditation continuously since. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program received initial accreditation by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) in 2012 with the first graduating class. Both programs are scheduled for their next accreditation by the ACEN in Fall 2025. The Polk State College nursing program surely contributes its fair share of nurses to the healthcare market; about 200 students complete the program each year. 

Courses for the Nursing Program are offered at both the Winter Haven and the Lakeland Polk State College campuses. The Associate Degree Nursing program offers two options or tracks: the generic track for individuals without a current healthcare license, and the transition track for individuals holding a current license or certificate as a Licensed Practical Nurse, Paramedic, Respiratory Therapist, or qualified Military Medic. The transition track is an accelerated pathway (doing two years in one year), and students who are eligible for the transition track by virtue of their background are encouraged to consider the generic track if they have significant work and/or family responsibilities or limited acute care clinical experience beyond that of their educational program. 

These options make the PSC Nursing program appealing to many prospective students interested in realizing their dreams of being a nurse. 

Admission into the Polk State College Nursing program is extremely competitive. Students must meet or exceed very strict requirements Applicants must first apply to and be accepted to Polk State College, prior to applying for the nursing program. Prospective students must also maintain a 2.5 GPA at minimum to be considered for the program and score a minimum of 70 on the Test of Essential Academic Skills. However, it should be stressed that minimum scores are not sufficient to be accepted into the program because of the high competition. Students with a true passion for nursing should not be discouraged if they are not accepted on their first attempt; students are able to reapply for entry into the program. Reapplication is encouraged! 

Dr. Annette Hutcherson is the program director of the PSC Nursing Program. She explains that graduates of the Polk State Nursing program “consistently exceed the state and national averages on the NCLEX-RN. For the second quarter of 2019, Polk State graduates had a 95 percent pass rate, far exceeding the 72.87 percent state average and 89.27 percent national average. This illustrates the rigor of Polk State’s Nursing Program and the quality of its graduates.” Many graduates of the Polk State College Nursing Program have gone on to obtain their Master’s Degree in Nursing, and some have gone on to obtain their Ph.D. Additionally, no school-to-work type of transitional program is needed because the graduates do not encounter any issues finding employment upon graduation. 

Dr. Hutcherson went on to explain that there is a shortage of qualified nurses because, “The job opportunities for nursing have expanded significantly with many more demands for nurses beyond the traditional hospital setting such as large corporations utilizing nurses in employee wellness centers and pharmacies employing nurses in wellness education programs. The aging population has resulted in more need for long-term care and more need for hospital beds for individuals with chronic illnesses.” 

If you are interested in applying to the Polk State College Nursing Program, head to the website at www.polk.edu/nursing/associate-of-science/. The program director’s office is located on the Winter Haven campus WSC 103, so stop by to chat. You can also call the Administrative Assistant at 863-297-1039 for an appointment or send an email to Dr. Hutcherson directly at ahutcherson@polk.edu.