As Montgomery College marks the 50th anniversary of the nursing program’s first graduating class, College officials are gearing up to meet a shortfall of nurses. It is estimated that Montgomery County will need an additional 1,733 nurses over the next decade, which translates into a 21 percent increase compared to the past 10 years. In the Washington metropolitan area (including the District of Columbia, Virginia, and Maryland), those figures jump to 7,000 new nurses, which translates to a 16 percent increase.
Health Sciences Dean Angela Pickwick says the nursing program has come a long way since its inception in 1966, when it was led by Helen Statts. Statts came to the College from the Garfield School of Nursing, now the Washington Hospital Center. “She would never have believed how the health care industry has changed and how nursing has been impacted,” says Pickwick. Managed care, the Affordable Care Act, and a ballooning population of baby boomers all have contributed to the drastic changes in today’s health care, she says.
“The equipment is much more sophisticated, there is greater need for specialized care, and we are facing an aging population; there is also a concern because the population is decreasing—and there are fewer health care providers in our younger generation,” Pickwick says. “That’s where we are and why it’s tricky.”
According to Monique Davis, associate dean of health sciences and director of nursing, enrollment in the nursing program is at a constant peak. Unlike most nursing programs, the College admits new students twice a year, in spring and fall. On average, 300 people apply for 128 seats.
In addition to offering enrollment twice a year, another step toward helping bridge the gap in the community between supply and demand is the College’s partnership with University of Maryland School of Nursing, which started in 2016. It offers a pathway from the associate’s degree in nursing to a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BDN).
“Since 1964 there has been a push to have nurses with bachelor’s degrees,” says Pickwick, “and the pathway will increase the number of MC students completing four-year degrees and will expand the supply of bedside nurses in Maryland and DC.”
“What never changes,” says Davis, “is the patient-based approach to teaching and practicing nursing. Throughout the curriculum, students are taught to recognize the patient or designee as the source of control and full partner in providing compassionate and coordinated care.”
Montgomery College nurses get their training in the Health Sciences Center, where the program has operated since 2004. The building was part of a $90-million expansion to the Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus. It houses the Helen A. Statts Nursing Center, other health science programs, and a community clinic operated by Holy Cross Hospital. The latter opened in 2014 on the grounds of the Germantown Campus as the first hospital to ever be located at a community college.