Training the Nurses Hospitals Need
New Cal State East Bay Master of Science in Nursing program provides option for nurses seeking advanced degrees
For the past 17 years, Josh Burke, a registered nurse and nurse educator, has worked alongside Cal State East Bay nursing students in Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center’s emergency room, primarily assisting them with clinical placement. A graduate of the university’s nursing program, Burke says throughout his years of experience he has noticed the shortage of Bay Area nurses possessing higher level degrees.
“Today, hospitals are becoming more bureaucratic and leadership-focused and are in need of more nurses with master’s degrees to operate and run every department,” he said. “The supply of master’s-prepared nurses hasn’t met the demand yet.”
But this spring, Cal State East Bay first cohort of nurses from a Master of Science in Nursing program designed to help meet that need completed their first year of classes.
“This new program is an opportunity for students to move forward beyond a bachelor's degree and take the next step, to enhance the leadership in nursing in our community,” chair of Cal State East Bay’s nursing department Lynn Van Hofwegen said.
According to Van Hofwegen, one main reason the number of present-day nurse educators and managers is at risk both in the Bay Area and nationally, is because most are reaching retirement age. Hospitals are searching for nurses with higher level degrees to take their place.
“Health care is changing and leadership is needed,” said Van Hofwegen. “Nurses in undergraduate programs get some direction, but not enough. This program goes further and will contribute to the development of the leaders that are needed in nursing right now.”
The two-year program offers students two separate specializations, or “tracks.” Both offer the same set of core courses during the first year of the program, followed by unique specialization courses during the second year, where students engage in hands-on learning related to the track they chose.
The nursing education track prepares nurses for roles in either a university, hospital or community clinical setting as an educator. It provides essential knowledge to facilitate the education of health care clients, nursing staff and future nurses. The nursing leadership and administration track prepares nurses to take on management type roles and positions, such as advanced nurse practitioner, emergency department director, quality liaison manager, nurse consultant or quality leader..
“This is the kind of degree that opens a ton of doors and allows you to become a leader in any area of a hospital,” said Burke. “Being a nurse with a master’s degree means you’re a jack of all trades.”
The program is predominantly online and currently has 15 students which allows professors to provide individualized attention.
Current students hail from a wide variety of medical and health centers across the Bay Area, including Kaiser Permanente, John Muir Health Hospital, Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center and community health centers, with backgrounds in maternal nursing, case management, intensive care, obstetrics and pain management.
Most of the program’s professors have taught in Cal State East Bay’s undergraduate nursing program for several years, such as Denise Li, who is also the program’s coordinator. She said she’s excited about how the program has progressed so far.
“Compared to the undergraduate students, I’ve enjoyed interacting and engaging in discussions about clinical practice with students who are already working,” said Li.
As for the program’s future, Li says she looks forward to sharing her teaching skills with her students and mentoring them to become the best teaching educators they can be.
“When we designed the program, we had one focus in mind and that was to provide working nurses with an affordable and easily accessible way to advance their careers,” said Li. “I feel like we’re reaching nurses who may have otherwise never had an opportunity or thought about getting their master’s.”