Nursing cohort increased to serve broader community

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July 28, 2020

When applications by first-year students to the nursing program at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University hit an all-time high in the spring of 2020, it produced a good news-bad news scenario.

The good news? A total of 103 students applied for the program.

The bad news? The cohort size was 54.

However, there was good news to be found for that cohort and others in the future. The cohort size was raised to 72 – a 33% increase - following formal approval by the CSB and SJU administrations.

“We’re able to better serve the broader community by supporting the growth and development of nurses that are going to be entering the profession,” said Julie Strelow, associate professor and chair of the nursing department at CSB and SJU. “By increasing our cohort sizes, we’re also helping put more nursing leaders in the community.”

compilation of why nursing students chose CSBSJU

This is a compilation of the reasons why nursing students chose the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University. The larger the word, the more times it was repeated.

This move, effective immediately, is due to several reasons, Strelow said.

One factor was the sheer number of applicants to the program (students do that in the spring of their first year).

“Over the last eight to 10 years, we’ve had an increased number of applicants,” Strelow said. “This year, we had our highest number of applications (103) submitted to the nursing program.”

The nursing department tracks the number of applicants to the program each year. In the five years previous to last spring, the number of applicants ranged from 74 to 87.

Another factor may be the $2.5 million renovation of the simulation lab and classrooms at the Guy and Barbara Schoenecker Nursing Education Suite at the Main Building at CSB. The renovation allows nursing faculty to utilize state-of-the-art technology to enhance student learning and prepares students to practice in an ever-changing healthcare environment.

“Each year as we orientate the newly admitted nursing majors, we ask them why they chose CSB and SJU. Overwhelmingly, the students talk about the sense of community they felt at the institutions (see accompanying graphic),” Strelow said. “The students also value the wealth of experiences and opportunities available to them at CSB and SJU. The Admission Department does a great job highlighting the opportunities and facilities on campus.”

The move to a larger cohort had been discussed by nursing department faculty for several years.

“Just the sheer number of applicants (this spring) tipped that balance,” Strelow said.

“We had to think very carefully about how we were going to create this experience so that it wasn’t just more numbers at the expense of everything else,” she said. “We still needed to speak to the quality of the program and meet our accreditation standards (by the Minnesota Board of Nursing and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education).”

The bottom line is that the increased cohort size means fewer rejections.

“It’s very, very difficult for us to turn away qualified students. It’s very disheartening,” Strelow said. “There’s a shortage of nurses (nationally), and there’s a shortage of nurse leaders. It’s very hard to turn away students.”