But CSON Dean Barbara Hazard Munro warns that the recent positive trends at CSON and other nursing schools and programs are not enough to heal a profession still rebounding from a succession of lean years.
CSON applications jumped by 52 per cent this year, following a 42 per cent increase during the 2001-2002 admission cycle. The number of students enrolling in nursing programs nationwide has increased 8 percent in the last year, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.
"Across the country [nursing school applications] are up," said Munro, "but we're only getting back up to where we were eight or 10 years ago. There's still a huge shortage of nurses in this country, and the projections just get worse before the year 2015 or 2020."
Some colleges and universities cut back nursing programs during the period of declining interest, and remaining schools are working hard to pick up the slack, said Munro, noting that additional faculty and clinical placement slots are needed to properly handle any increase in a nursing school's student body.
"None of us are in a position to gear up and say, 'Wow, there's this big shortage, we'll take in an extra X percent,'" she said.
Munro said that the nation's faltering economy has helped to fuel the rekindled interest in the nursing profession. "When the economy goes down, applications to nursing go up. There are jobs, and our students do quite well.
"Nurses are making decent salaries out there. They can go almost any place they want - literally in the world - and not only find a job, but one with working hours that suit them," Munro said.
Munro said alternative nursing education programs, such as the one CSON offers for non-nursing college graduates, are also proving popular. More than 200 applications were received by CSON this year for the 32 allocated slots in the school's 12-month program that prepares college grads to take the nursing licensing examination.
At the graduate level, the US News survey ranked CSON 19th among all master's degree nursing programs in the country, along with six other institutions.
Joining the Connell School of Nursing in this year's US News graduate school rankings are the Graduate School of Social Work (tied for 19th), Law School (No. 22), Lynch Graduate School of Education (23) and Carroll Graduate School of Management (41).
"We've got a strong faculty here," Munro said. "They are well-known and we're doing a lot of good research.
"All of the schools that are rated ahead of us are academic medical centers," she said. "Boston College squeezes in there, because although we are not an academic medical center, we have access to all of the Boston teaching hospitals."
Boston College is the top-ranked Catholic school in the US News survey for graduate nursing programs, which is published every three years. Yale (tied for 10th) is the only other New England institution in the magazine's top 20.
"It's nice to be recognized as one of the best in the country," Munro said. "We're doing well and feeling good about it."
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