Nurses awarded $1 million

Bethany Hopkins

Registered Nurse Anne Zaharias was offered a job on the oncology floor at Cottage Hospital before she even finished her associates’ degree from City College. She was not alone. In fact, every single graduate of the Associate Degree Nursing Program last year was guaranteed a hospital job.

Faced with a nationwide shortage of nurses, the program here has been given $1 million over the next five years to hire new teachers. The college was one of five campuses awarded state money to increase the size of their nursing programs. With the extra money, City College plans to graduate 11 students earlier than planned.

“I can’t even tell you how many open positions” there are for nurses at the hospital, said Karolyn Hanna, nursing professor who also supervises students at Cottage. Hanna estimates that up to 80 percent of the college’s nursing alumni go to work there.

Over the next five years the extra money will allow City College’s Nursing Program to expand by 55 graduating students, helping to soothe the shortage of nurses in Santa Barbara.

The nursing program keeps enrollment at about 140 students, but the wait list currently holds some 600 names. Only about 20 to 40 students graduate each year.

Each year, Cottage Hospital will match up to $81,000 given by a state grant. The goal is to graduate 11 more nurses a year.

“[There is] a demand for hands-on nursing” in Santa Barbara, said Zaharias. She is one of six recent City College graduates on her floor to be hired right out of school.

“Cottage Hospital is very supportive of out students,” added Sheri Shields, acting director for the nursing program.

The real challenge that the grant addresses is faculty, Hanna said. High costs of living in Santa Barbara keep many applicants away. Cottage Hospital conducts local classes through Cal State Los Angeles so that area nurses will be qualified to teach at City College.

Now the nursing program has the money to actively seek out two more professors and four new teaching assistants. Teaching assistants are especially helpful for students during clinical hours, where they work with real patients.

Two smaller grants will also pay for new programs and equipment, such as human simulator mannequin with vital signs. Nursing students will be better prepared for their clinical work after realistic practice, Hanna said.

The relationship between City College and Cottage Hospital made Zaharias’ transition from student to nurse very smooth.

“SBCC has such a great program it’s not just theoretical … it’s practical,” she said.

“If more city colleges could do what our program was doing … it would be wonderful.”