SPOKANE, Wash. –The 154 statewide bachelor and master’s degree nursing students graduating in various commencement ceremonies next week from the Washington State University Intercollegiate College of Nursing are stepping into a profession ready and waiting for new graduates, loaded with multiple opportunities and higher than average salaries.

The continued international nursing shortage has placed nursing graduates in high demand. Students preparing to graduate have been receiving qualified offers for many weeks. The difficulty comes in having to choose between competing offers.

The spring 2004 graduating class consists of 124 students receiving a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree and 37 receiving a Master of Nursing degree from the WSU Intercollegiate College of Nursing campuses in Spokane, Yakima, Tri-Cities, Vancouver and Walla Walla. The 44 Web-based BSN students (included in the above total) are from towns and cities across the state.

Salaries for new graduates, ranging from $45,000-$60,000, have many students comparing offers and accepting positions in highly specialized areas. “The salaries and opportunities for nursing graduates are steadily rising from one semester to the next,” said Dorothy Detlor, dean of the WSU Intercollegiate College of Nursing. “Nursing continues to be a high-demand career for traditional students, professionals from other health disciplines and those seeking second or third careers.”

At least four soon-to-be undergraduates have been offered positions at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. Kristin Walters, a 23-year-old student has accepted a position in the cardiac intensive care unit.

“The University of Washington Medical Center has an excellent transition program and internship process that will facilitate my continued learning needs,” Walters said. “The fact that the UW Medical Center is also a teaching hospital was very attractive for me because I want to continue my education. Plus they’ve offered relocation reimbursement and an excellent and comprehensive benefits package.”

According to graduates, Arizona, California, Florida and Nevada are offering great jobs, relocation expenses, tuition reimbursement and sign-on bonuses. Although several students have already accepted positions outside of Washington state, many graduates want to stay and work in the Spokane area.

Holly Radika, a 28-year-old undergraduate student, has accepted a position in the nursing float pool at Sacred Heart Medical Center. “I’ll be working in the medical/surgical and telemetry (cardiac monitoring) areas,” Radika said. “I’ve been working as a nursing assistant at Sacred Heart since 1999, and I know that helped me secure a permanent position. I feel really fortunate to be staying in Spokane because this is such a great health care environment.”    

As the largest single health care profession, employment for registered nurses will grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2008, creating the need for a million new and replacement nurses by 2010 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). The nursing shortage is expected to intensify over the next decade as baby boomers age and a large percentage of the current nursing workforce retires. As a high-demand profession now and to the future, more students than ever are considering nursing as a career.

“We continue to see an increasing number of highly qualified applicants,” Detlor said “We are able to admit about one-third of the total number of qualified applicants. The high-demand dollars approved by the state legislature last year allowed us to admit 10 additional undergraduate students per semester in Spokane, 10 additional undergraduate students annually in Yakima, and begin offering a basic baccalaureate program, admitting 10 students in the Tri-Cities, beginning this fall.”

Saturday evening, May 8 students will participate in a nursing tradition demonstrated through a convocation ceremony. During the ceremony students receive their nursing pins and are able to share with classmates, faculty and family members their future nursing career plans. “This ceremony culminates their initial nursing education and allows the students to share their career plans and recognize those who have supported their educational journey thus far,” Detlor said.

Established in 1968, the WSU Intercollegiate College of Nursing is the nation’s first, oldest and most comprehensive nursing education consortium. Celebrating 35 years of world-class nursing education, the WSU Intercollegiate College of Nursing offers baccalaureate, graduate and professional development course work to nursing students enrolled through its four consortium partners: Eastern Washington University, Gonzaga University, WSU and Whitworth College. Each year the college educates more than 650 graduate and upper-division undergraduate students and prepares more entry-level nurses than any other state educational institution. For more information about the College of Nursing visit the Web site at nursing.wsu.edu.

Commencement student availability for media: 1:00-1:30 p.m. (Friday, May 7): Selected nursing students available for interviews in the lobby area of the Spokane Opera House. Please contact Susan Nielsen at (509) 991-9151 for assistance.

Convocation student availability for media: 6:30-6:50 p.m. (Saturday, May 8): Students, families and College of Nursing administrators will be available for interviews prior to convocation, which begin at 7 p.m. in Showalter Hall on the Eastern Washington University Cheney campus. Please contact Susan Nielsen at (509) 991-9151 for assistance.

Tri-Cities Commencement: Friday, May 14 at 6 p.m. at the Tri-Cities Coliseum.

Vancouver Commencement: Saturday, May 15 at 1 p.m. at The Amphitheater at Clark County in Vancouver.

Consortium Member Commencement ceremonies will take place on the Eastern Washington University, Gonzaga University and Whitworth College campuses May 8-15.