Newswise — Enrolled at nursing programs at 19 campuses, (and a 20th planned at Humboldt State University), California State University nursing students are serving their communities throughout the state from the get-go. Whether participating in clinical rotations, volunteering at health clinics, interning at hospitals or working as caregivers, thousands of the CSU nursing students are putting their coursework to immediate use outside the classroom while working towards their degrees.

Christine Mallon, Ph. D, assistant vice chancellor for academic programs, says, "The CSU has more than 8,100 students enrolled in a total of 79 nursing programs, encompassing various specializations across bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels."

In line with the goals of Graduation Initiative 2025, nursing programs are increasing their efficiency in graduating students in a timely manner, and the ethnic diversity of students is now 54%, Mallon says. "Our 40 bachelor's of science in nursing (BSN) programs have been streamlined in several ways. We've reduced the total number of units required for our four-year bachelor's degrees to 120 semester units; we've developed courses that fulfill multiple requirements, including major, licensure and general education requirements; and we've streamlined pathways for community college Registered Nursing (RN) programs to complete the CSU BSN degrees."

Margaret Brady, Ph.D, CSU Faculty Nursing Coordinator, Professor of Nursing, California State University Long Beach says, "Industry is demanding more nurses with bachelor's degrees rather than the associate's degree. With our bachelor's, master's and doctoral programs, we are graduating increasingly sophisticated practitioners. Critical thinking, leadership and advocacy roles are emphasized, in addition to one-to one patient relationships."

The CSU nursing students learn through clinical rotations in multiple settings – hospitals, schools, community health services -- with the latest technology, she says. In state-of-the art simulation labs, students get hands-on experience using EKG, electronic thermometers, blood pressure and fetal monitors, and mannequins that simulate breathing, heart rate and various health issues.  Collaborating with their instructors and peers, students are challenged with a variety of scenarios as their mannequin- patient's health deteriorates with simulated life-threatening conditions.

In addition to the wide range of classroom and community nursing experiences the students are exposed to, CSU nursing programs prepare students to successfully pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).  The CSU nursing students systemwide have a first-time pass rate exceeding the national average of 87%. Employers' positive testimonials further attest to the CSU nursing graduates' success.

Senior nursing student Natalie Titcomb, California State University Channel Islands, is effusive about the opportunities and learning experiences that the CSU's nursing program has provided her.

Recently lauded at the CSU's Trustee Awards, Titcomb was recognized for her scholarship and service to her community, including her involvement in starting a free-clinic for the underserved community in Oxnard. As a sophomore, Titcomb joined her fellow nursing students and faculty advisor, LaSonya Davis-Smith, DNP, assistant professor of nursing, in launching the Frances Huggins Community Health Clinic, a partnership with St. Paul Baptist Church's outreach center.

 "Starting with a donation of a dilapidated trailer from the church, we created a student-run clinic, overseen by Dr. Davis," the CSUCI senior says.  Proud that the CSU nursing students are encouraged to develop programs that they are personally passionate about, she says, "We are given the opportunity to assess our community's needs, and use their feedback to create beneficial programs."

While offering health screenings and workshops on health, diet and exercise topics through the clinic, nursing students volunteer to join with the church's outreach program, connecting locals to resources throughout the community. Explaining the expansive role of nurses as collaborators with social work and public health agencies, Titcomb says, "We can help locals tap into their community resources including food banks, medical care and other social services."

Titcomb is passionate about such opportunities that the CSU Channel Islands' nursing program qualified her for. "Our instructors do everything possible to help us succeed. We have so many opportunities for enhancing our education, participating in our community, and they ensure we're prepared for our board exams and the job market. Our professors are very engaged in helping us become wonderful nurses. I am graduating with a holistic understanding of my role as a nurse -- my program has taught me so much more than just skills and technique. It has taught me how to communicate with patients and their families, care for them with compassion, and exercise empathy in my practice as a nurse. "

The CSU Channel Islands' program is ranked 11th out of 127 nursing programs in California by (RNO). RNO Founder Brooke Wallace says, "CSU Channel Islands not only supports students during their time on campus, but also prepares them for a career beyond the university."  The ranking criteria factors in the program's high student retention rate and the high number of nursing graduates who pass the NCLEX (nursing board exams.)

Titcomb, in addition to her coursework, works at the Cardiovascular Acute Care Unit as a nursing assistant in Children's Hospital Los Angeles' Heart Institute – a highly competitive position that she believes the program training qualified her for.

"Children's Hospital is ranked as one of the top ten best pediatric hospitals in the nation. Its Heart Institute serves patients with heart problems from infants up to 20 years old," Titcomb says.

As a nursing assistant, she has had a wide range of on-the-job training since she started working at the hospital last summer. She says, "I get to learn and work with newborns and new mothers learning to breastfeed; it's a unique mix of complicated cardiac physiology and advanced medical care along with basic infant care. I also get to work with kids with a wide variety of diagnoses from cancer to infectious diseases."

After Titcomb graduates with her bachelor's degree, her next step is to take the NCLEX board exams. She notes how CSU Channel Islands has helped students, starting from their initial class meetings, prepare for these vigorous licensing tests. "Our instructors start testing us from 'day one,' to help us adjust to the NCLEX testing style. We have an online program we practice using and take proctored tests every semester. Last year, we had a 100 percent pass rate."

Titcomb is also grateful for the CSU system support she has received. "As the daughter of a single mother with limited income, I had no one to help me pay for college. I applied for every scholarship, and was not sure what my opportunities would be. I wouldn't have had opportunity to go to college without the CSU financial aid and scholarships from the Ventura Community Foundation."

After graduation, passing the boards and a few more years' pediatric work experience to determine her specialization, Titcomb intends to pursue her master's and then doctorate degrees. Mostly likely, she'll be returning to a CSU. With its 45 master's programs and two regional doctoral programs, she says, "We have the best nursing programs anywhere."

For more information on the CSU nursing programs, visit