As the number of nursing jobs increase nationwide, Oklahoma Christian University’s Bachelor of Science in nursing program is preparing students to find high-paying, satisfying jobs after graduation.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for registered nurses is anticipated to increase by 15 percent by 2024, a rate significantly higher than other professions in the U.S. This increase will add an additional 438,100 jobs for nurses with a bachelor’s degree.
Christy Hallock, a nursing professor at Oklahoma Christian, said the great demand for nurses is caused mainly by an increase in older generational patients and a shortage of qualified nurses to take care of them.
“The number of patients coming into hospitals has skyrocketed,” Hallock said. “We’re talking about baby boomers that are now older—adult patients who have multiple disease processes wrong with them like high blood pressure, diabetes and whatever else is making them sick. We have poor preventative care, and that’s cultural as well—like not going to see our primary healthcare provider like we should, so we have a patient influx to hospitals. Then, there’s also a nursing shortage and there has been for quite a while. There are more people now and less people to take care of them.”
Junior nursing student Claire Chilcoat said while the number of elderly patients in need of care rises, the number of available nurses has decreased due to the rough, albeit rewarding conditions of the job.
“It’s kind of nitty-gritty work, so a lot of people don’t want to do it, necessarily,” Chilcoat said. “The pay is not great—some people will find the work dirty and it’s caring for people that are not at their best, so you’re not always treated well. It’s also long hours and very complex, high-level thinking, so people are very tired and worn out at the end of their shifts. We need people who are willing to do that kind of work.”
Oklahoma Christian’s nursing program has a high rate of employment post-graduation and offers many externship opportunities to its students because of the university’s close relationships with hospitals in the Oklahoma City and Edmond area. Students participate in clinical hours with local hospitals every semester where they are assigned a nurse to shadow and assist for eight-hour shifts once a week. Many students obtain job offers and connections through these clinical studies.
“What’s really cool about nursing is you’re actually doing what you’re learning,” Hallock said. “So, if they learn about a body system in class, they’ll go to the hospital and we will make sure to assign them to a patient that has that issue and they’re also assigned a nurse that works at that hospital. Generally, they work together, and nurses will notice our students and ask if they’ve heard about their externships. Usually, it happens after their junior year to allot a skill set and then they try to recruit you when you’re done.”
The nursing program at Oklahoma Christian emphasizes mission work. In classes, students learn how to use their medical skills and talents to help others in need. Every summer, the university takes the recently graduated students on a two-week, overseas mission trip to Honduras where they are given the opportunity to work in a hospital for a week and then travel into the mountains to administer vaccinations and basic care to the people living there.
Hallock said the mission aspect of the program is what sets Oklahoma Christian apart from other nursing programs.
“One of the things that make our program quite a bit different is we have a mission component,” Hallock said. “You won’t see that at a larger state university. We have a fairly small faculty, so chances are you’re going to get one of us for multiple classes and we get to know our students really well.”
Chilcoat said the mission aspect of the profession, whether local or abroad, was a major contributor to her long-held interest in becoming a nurse.
“I always knew I wanted to help people,” Chilcoat said. “My family always said it was what I was called to do. As a Christian, wanting to help people and be there for their very worst time is the biggest thing for me. That can be outside the country or in the states—helping people with their everyday lives. There are people that need help everywhere.”