Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Grant Creates Scholarships for Low-Income CSUN Nursing Students

A $50,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is creating opportunities at California State University, Northridge for financially challenged students to pursue a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

CSUN nursing students practice their skills on a "dummy"  in the university's nursing lab.

CSUN nursing students practice their skills on a “mannequin” in the university’s nursing lab. Photo by Jenny Donaire.

The grant is funding a New Careers in Nursing Scholarship, which targets those students interested in enrolling in CSUN’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. The program compresses 56 semester units of classes and clinical work into an intense 15 months. Given the program’s demanding course load, students are required not to work outside of class.

The requirement not to work may discourage some students who could not afford to make that financial sacrifice, “which is why the grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is so important,” said nursing faculty member Samira Moughrabi.

Nursing department chair Marianne Hattar-Pollara noted that with “the goal of providing more culturally competent patient care, we want our program to prepare graduates who can represent the health care needs of our diverse population.”

The funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will not only provide the financial means for underrepresented students in nursing, but will offer needed training for ensuring their success in the program “and for preparing them to assume leadership roles in nursing,” Hattar-Pollara said.

The New Careers in Nursing Scholarship is awarded to five students each year who demonstrate a financial need and are entering the Accelerated Bachelor of Science program.

CSUN’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science (A-BSN) program started in 2007 in response to a critical shortage of nurses in the San Fernando Valley and the surrounding regions. The program targets people who already have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree but want to pursue a degree in nursing.

With an average pass-rate of more than 90 percent on the state licensure exam, graduates of the A-BSN program are often employed within the local community and, in some cases, immediately upon graduation.

Last year, more than 300 people applied for 36 spots in the program. Moughrabi said the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant enables the program to expand its enrollment to 20 students each for its summer and fall cohorts, for a total of 40 students a year, beginning this semester.

Each cohort is admitted to the four-semester program for classroom work and clinical rotations. As part of the program’s requirements, students learn in a variety of nursing units in the San Fernando Valley at varying times and days of the week. The university has partnered with several local hospitals—including Northridge Hospital Medical Center, Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank and Kaiser Permanente—to ensure that students get hands-on nursing experience.

By the end of the 15 months, the students are eligible to receive a bachelor’s of science degree in nursing from Cal State Northridge, take the RN licensing exam and to apply for a public health nurse certificate.

Sylvia A. Alva, dean of CSUN’s College of Health and Human Development, said the New Careers in Nursing Scholarship provides “momentum for this crucial phase of growth of our nursing program.”

“The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant sharpens our resolve and focus on preparing nurse leaders who reflect the richness of the state’s diversity,” Alva said. “Their contributions to the field will increase the likelihood that more Californians will seek and receive the medical care and advice they need, and at a stage when complications can be pre-empted or, better yet, prevented.”

California State University, Northridge is a regionally focused, nationally recognized university serving more than 36,400 full- and part-time students in the San Fernando Valley and surrounding areas. Founded in 1958, Cal State Northridge is among the largest universities in the nation and is ranked among the top universities for bachelor’s degrees awarded to minority students. It has nine colleges and more than 2,000 faculty members who teach courses leading to bachelor’s degrees in 69 disciplines, master’s degrees in 58 fields and doctorates in education and physical therapy, as well as 28 teaching credential programs. Continuously evolving and changing to meet the needs of California and the nation at large, the university is home to dozens of acclaimed programs where students gain valuable hands-on experience working alongside faculty and industry professionals, whether in the sciences, health care and engineering or education, political science, the arts and the social sciences.