PLEASANT PRAIRIE — Marquette University is celebrating an expansion of its nursing college. The expanded Direct Entry Master of Science in Nursing program nearly tripled its space in Pleasant Prairie in August with a goal of training five thousand nurses in the next decade.
Awwso is one of the 300 students currently in the program. He got into nursing because he wants to provide the level of care he wants his mom to receive to every patient.
"I knew I wanted to become a nurse when my mom was severely ill with COVID," Awwso shared. "I felt so incompetent. I felt, honestly, demoralized."
That experience led him into one the brand new simulation rooms at the Pleasant Prairie site. Each room has its own life-like mannequin that students train on.
"It's a tough program, but it's doable and they're pushing you to succeed," Awwso said about the accelerated, but rigorous, program.
The program is five semesters long, but a heavy course load, and for students who have already been through undergrad.
Interim Assistant Dean of Graduate Program Karen Robinson said the program needed to expand to address the nursing shortage in Wisconsin and across the country.
"Over the next 10 years we're going to need a great influx of quality nurses to care for our populations," Robinson said. "They are coming out prepared, ready to change, ready to be the difference, ready to live the qualities of a Marquette nurse."
Jamie Lucas, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, called the shortage a crisis.
According to the 2022 Wisconsin Health Care Workforce Report, more than 10 percent of nursing jobs in the state are vacant. It's a first since 2005. Lucas said it's taking a toll.
"It's incredibly stressful. It's disenfranchising, I think, because the people who get into this profession to become a nurse or health care worker, you do so because you care about other people. You want to get into this field to make a difference," Lucas said.
Lucas said adding nurses to the workforce is an important piece of the puzzle. He said healthcare systems can also play a part in helping the next generation of nurses.
"Without transforming the systems itself to make it healthy, we're going to burn out nurses," Lucas said. "Health care itself is sick. If you introduce healthy people into a sick system, the healthy people become harmed."
The federation is supporting legislation that would put in place minimum staffing requirements for hospitals across the state so nurses now, and in the future, can do what they came to school to do.