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Nursing enrollment jumps by 24% in 2020

New admissions options and in-person instruction pay off in new student admissions.

Janel Shoun-Smith | 615.966.7078  | 

Nursing student in a class

A new spring admission option, direct admission for freshman and positive word of mouth during this past year have resulted in strong enrollment gains for the School of Nursing in 2020-2021, said Chelsia Harris, executive director of the School of Nursing.

Overall upper division nursing student enrollment increased by approximately 24% from May 2019 to January 2021, she said.

“In January we are welcoming our largest spring cohort to date, and we project another 15-17% overall upper division enrollment increase by fall semester 2021,” Harris said. “The growth has been incremental and very paced.”

In addition to allowing a more flexible entry time to potential students, the school’s efforts to provide in-person class time and clinical placements during the pandemic in 2020 has resulted in strong word of mouth that has drawn various students to Lipscomb, said Kimberly Smith, coordinator of operations.

Lipscomb’s nursing cohorts meet in socially distanced in-person classes every week or alternating with virtual classes for a week, depending on the amount of enrollment in the class. Those in-person classes allow students and faculty more one-on-one instruction and personal relationships with faculty.

“We are passionate about making sure our graduates have what they need: personal encounters and the personal touch,” Harris said. “That cannot always happen over a virtual encounter. We honor our safety guidelines, but also provide what they need to be successful clinicians.”
That means that during in-person courses in the Health Simulation Laboratory, the school models hospital safety requirements throughout the class, said Mary Hesselrode, associate executive director for academics. 

“Students are required to wear gloves, shields and masks, just as if they were working in a hospital,” she said. “It helps them adapt to having the personal protective equipment on for that long period of time when they go to clinical placements or graduate into the workplace. It lets them know what to expect.”

That kind of commitment to high standards and individual relationships is paying off in new students enrolled, Harris said.

“Word of mouth, our legacy and our consistent outcomes such as the NCLEX pass rate, job placement rate and overall performance in the workplace are setting a tone, and people want to be a part of it,” she said.
This positive word of mouth and an increased interest in health professions due to the COVID pandemic, are also spurring some people to change their majors to nursing, Harris said.
“They want to be part of something bigger,” Harris said of such new students. “I think that has something to do with it. People want to make a difference in the world and nursing is one of the greatest professions to do that.”

“I think they are looking at it as a mission field, a field that is local and meaningful,” Hesselrode said. “They want to be out there helping people and serving.”

While spring brought many facilities cancelling their preceptorships believing that hospitals would be inundated with COVID cases, the fall COVID surge has brought many hospitals changing course and welcoming students for preceptorships now that they are inundated, Hesselrode said.

Another factor adding to the enrollment increases is the addition of a nursing-specific recruiter, Ashley Jackson, who is also a BSN registered nurse herself, who works directly with admissions.

“It has made all the difference, because students and families want to hear from someone who is actually in the profession. It offers a sense of peace and understanding for everyone,” Harris said.

The addition of Jackson has also allowed Smith more time to personally advise and spend time with transfer students coming into the upper division program, she said.