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Nursing applications on the rise at SIU Carbondale

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CARBONDALE (WSIL) -- Applying to nursing school is getting a little more competitive as schools are seeing a jump in applications.

Southern Illinois University in Carbondale joins a growing-national trend, even as its new nursing program is still "under construction."

Sophomore nursing student Cassie Edwards is pursuing her dream to become a nurse, something she says the pandemic convinced her was all the more important obtain.

"To me, being a nurse is a privilege," says Edwards. "To be able to care for the past and to be able to care for the future is not something I take lightly, it's something I've always wanted to do, so really it just made me want to do it more."

She's enrolled in the first class of nursing students the Carbondale campus is training, and it wasn't her first time applying for such a program.

"Not everybody can be a nurse," says Edwards. "It does not come easy."

The new program at SIU just received approval last year and is expected to provide training for about 300 students once it's fully up-and-running. Program Director Kelli D. Whittington says, right now, applications for the program outnumber the available seats more than three-to-one.

"For admission for the Fall of 2021, we have over 450 applications and we can take 50 Freshman and 50 Sophomores," says Whittington. "So you can see that's quiet a large pool of applicants for that limited amount of students that we will be able to have in the program."

The increase in applications is part of a national trend with medical schools up 18-percent from this time last year, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Whittington says, admitting more students into the nursing program is a goal down the road, but the level of instruction required, and placement into the job market keep numbers low until the program grows.

"We have to accept students in a way that's responsible for us to be able to provide the education, and for us to be able to provide the clinical opportunities for them," explains Whittington.

She adds, hopeful nursing students can't give up on the first or second try when applying. For Cassie Edwards, it took more than a few times before her acceptance arrived.

"I had to have faith and hope," says Edwards, "If it's my time, time will come, and I guess the Pandemic is my time, so that's fine."

For those first few nursing classes at SIU, an unexpected bonus arrived with their placement into the program. Thanks to an anonymous donor, each student in the inaugural class received a $3,000 scholarship. The school says the remaining funds will continue to provide financial assistance to incoming nursing students.

Joe Rehana

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