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News / Health / Clark County Health

‘Kind of a win-win’: Concordia University St. Paul helps meet booming nursing demand

Program lets students earn a second degree at an accelerated pace while preparing them to enter workforce

By Chrissy Booker, Columbian staff writer
Published: April 27, 2024, 6:03am
4 Photos
Nursing student and Vancouver resident Magnus Kofoed talks about his schooling experience Wednesday at Concordia University St. Paul in Portland.
Nursing student and Vancouver resident Magnus Kofoed talks about his schooling experience Wednesday at Concordia University St. Paul in Portland. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

About four years ago, Vancouver resident Magnus Kofoed was unsure of the next step in his professional career.

He had just earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Washington State University, and like many recent grads, he didn’t know what to do next. He took a year off in Denmark, his home country, and served in the Danish Royal Guard before deciding to apply for a second bachelor’s program in nursing.

Now, Kofoed is just two weeks away from graduating from the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at Concordia University St. Paul in Portland, which partners with local hospitals, including PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver.

Kofoed was offered a job at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center’s cardiology unit and will begin working after taking the National Council Licensure Examination in May. He feels secure and hopeful for the future of his career, he said.

“The heart is dense when it comes to information about it and the different procedures that can be done on it,” Kofoed said. “If anything, it’s interesting to enter into that territory, because there’s so much unknown, and there’s so much to learn. The work that the school does with getting students good clinical positions at good sites is huge. Right now, I’m fast-tracked to be settled and squared away with a good job.”

A second path

Concordia St. Paul’s 16-month nursing program allows students to earn a second degree at an accelerated pace, while preparing them to enter the workforce. The program offers simulation labs where students can gain experience from real-life health scenarios.

On Wednesday, Lab and Simulation Resource Manager Claire Vita explained how the simulation labs come equipped with a microphone and medical mannequins to enact realistic hospital scenarios, such as birth, pediatric emergencies and hospice care. After simulation labs, students debrief with each other and their professors about what went well and what didn’t.

“Simulation is very focused on interpersonal care and communication,” Vita said. “Debriefing is the most important aspect of these informal learning experiences, to sort of turn a lived experience into knowledge that you can take away.”

In addition to PeaceHealth, the university partners with Providence and Oregon Health & Science University Hospital in Portland. Students complete more than 180 hours of clinical training at partner hospitals and receive hands-on experience there.

Working at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center during clinical training led Kofoed to his initial job offer.

“PeaceHealth has more than 300 collaborative partnerships with schools that train future nurses, including Concordia, and we are committed to advancing the education and professional development of those choosing the nursing profession,” PeaceHealth spokeswoman Debra Carnes said.

Because it’s an accelerated program, the coursework is compressed, said Hollie Caldwell, dean and professor of practice.

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“When we get them placed to practice clinical, a lot of those opportunities turn into employment opportunities, because they’re spending so many hours in that environment,” Caldwell said. “It’s kind of a win-win for the facility and for the student.”

Growing demand

Since training to be a nurse, Kofoed has become passionate about making nursing a more mainstream career path, particularly for men.

As of 2022, men accounted for 12 percent of the national nursing workforce, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration.

The demand for registered nurses is projected to grow 6 percent from 2022 to 2032, faster than the average for all occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to the state Employment Security Department, registered nurses in the Portland-Vancouver area earned an average of $53.66 per hour in May 2022, the latest data available.

Despite the demand and good pay, traditional colleges and universities have had to turn away students due to a lack of clinical sites and classroom space, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

Caldwell said she believes another factor is the lack of nursing faculty across the country.

“There’s a big pay difference between being a nurse educator and being a practicing clinician in a health care environment,” Caldwell said. “That’s a barrier for a lot of people. If you’ve worked in clinical practice and you’re making great wages, it’s hard to transition to be a nurse educator.”

But preparing people ahead of time so they are ready for the demand is the nice thing about it, Caldwell said.

“There’s so much uncertainty nowadays. Folks go to school, they get a cool degree, and they have some fun, but then they come out and they have debt,” Kofoed said. “For me, the pressure was finding a career that can support me — work that needs to be done to provide better care for everybody, and I’m passionate about it. That’s what nursing has done for me.”

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This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.

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