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OU to Meet Oklahoma’s Workforce Needs by Nearly Doubling Nursing Class Sizes

OU to Meet Oklahoma’s Workforce Needs by Nearly Doubling Nursing Class Sizes


Published: Tuesday, March 8, 2022

The University of Oklahoma announced today its plan to dramatically increase enrollment in the bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program, administered through the Fran and Earl Ziegler College of Nursing.

Beginning this fall, the college will expand the size of its nursing class by accepting all qualified applicants, allowing more students the opportunity to pursue a nursing career and, in turn, building up the state’s nursing workforce at a time when nurses are needed more than ever. For the incoming fall 2022 class, OU admitted all 555 qualified applicants, compared to fall 2021 when the university was unable to admit more than 225 qualified applicants. Moving forward, OU will admit all qualified applicants to both its traditional BSN program and the accelerated BSN program.

“One of the University of Oklahoma’s most important responsibilities is to leverage our strengths to serve the wider interests of our state,” said OU President Joseph Harroz Jr. “ For over a century, OU nurses have performed heroic, life-changing work, and increasing our nursing class sizes will extend their impact to even more people and communities across our state. We are incredibly grateful for the support from our state leaders, who share in our vision of building a better future for Oklahoma.”

OU’s strategy to enhance Oklahoma’s nursing workforce was detailed today at the state Capitol at an announcement event with Gov. Kevin Stitt and other state leaders in attendance.

According to the Oklahoma Nurses Association, the state has 712 nurses per 100,000 residents, ranking Oklahoma 46th in the nation in terms of nurses per capita. The last two years have intensified this issue, with the COVID-19 pandemic causing additional strain and a large portion of the Oklahoma nursing workforce nearing retirement.

“Oklahoma’s nursing shortage is of great concern for our state,” Stitt said. “While the COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on the health care industry, particularly on the nursing workforce, the tireless work of OU and the Fran and Earl Ziegler College of Nursing will ensure we are addressing the needs of an evolving health care system and that Oklahomans continue receiving quality care.”

To help support this initiative, the university is using funds generated through the sales tax exemption for the University Hospitals Authority and Trust – a new state law approved by the Legislature and Stitt during the 2021 legislative session, additional appropriations from the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, as well as internal university resources, which includes generous donor support.

“In this unprecedented expansion, OU has not lowered the academic standards for admission to our program in any way,” said Interim Vice President and Provost of the Health Sciences Center Dr. Gary Raskob. “OU nursing graduates will remain the top qualified and prepared nurses in the state. We’re so thankful for the support we have received to make this class increase possible, and for the ingenuity and resourcefulness of our OU faculty and staff to see it made a reality.”

Increasing enrollment is only one of the many ways OU is supporting the state’s need for more nurses. In 2021, the university announced it would offer its bachelor of science in nursing degree at two additional locations, partnering with Norman Regional Hospital and Duncan Regional Hospital. The expansion adds to the college’s existing locations that offer the traditional BSN – the OU Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City, the OU-Tulsa Schusterman Center and Cameron University in Lawton.

The OU College of Nursing has also expanded its online degree offerings in recent years. Programs that are offered fully online are the RN to BSN (with clinical practicum hours), Master’s in Nursing Administration, Ph.D. in Nursing and the Doctor of Nursing Practice in Executive Leadership.

OU’s nursing programs have earned high honors in nationwide rankings. In its 2022 rankings, U.S. News & World Report placed OU No. 29 in its list of best online master’s in nursing programs, and No. 58 for best bachelor of science in nursing programs. OU’s RN to BSN online program is ranked No. 2 in the nation by nurse.org.

In collaboration with the Oklahoma Career Tech System, the OU College of Nursing also updated a nurse refresher course geared toward RNs and LPNs whose nursing licenses have become inactive but who would like to rejoin the workforce. The refresher course reduces the learning and time barriers to reactivate one’s nursing license – in turn, increasing the number of available registered nurses and licensed practical nurses in Oklahoma.

“The expansion of our BSN program is just the latest way that the OU College of Nursing is developing strategic partnerships to address our state’s need for more nurses,” said Julie Hoff, dean of OU’s Fran and Earl Ziegler College of Nursing. “This unparalleled collaboration reinforces the critical role nurses play in ensuring the health of all Oklahomans. College of Nursing faculty and staff stand ready to welcome our largest nursing class ever later this year.”

Founded in 1911, OU’s Fran and Earl Ziegler College of Nursing is Oklahoma’s largest nursing program. Ranked as the state’s top college of nursing and as one of the best online master’s programs in the nation, the college continues to build upon over a century of achievements and leaderships – momentum evidenced by the expansion of programs and student successes.

About the University of Oklahoma

Founded in 1890, the University of Oklahoma is a public research university located in Norman, Oklahoma. OU serves the educational, cultural, economic and health care needs of the state, region and nation. For more information visit www.ou.edu.