By Curtis, Elissa
Byline: Elissa Curtis
What does it take to be a well-trained nurse? The answer used to be two-year associate's or four-year bachelor's degree programs. But as the nursing shortage deepens, a growing number of schools and hospitals are establishing "fast-track programs" that enable college grads with no nursing experience to become registered nurses with only a year or so of specialized training.
In 1991, there were only 40 fast-track curricula; now there are more than 200. Typical is Columbia University's Entry to Practice program. Students earn their bachelor of science in nursing in a year. Those who stay on for an additional two years can earn a master's degree that qualifies them as nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, clinical nurse specialists or certified nurse midwives.
Many students are recent grads; others are career switchers. Rudy Guardron, 32, a 2004 grad of Columbia's program, was premed in college and then worked for a pharmaceutical research company. At Columbia, he trained as a nurse practitioner. "I saw that nurses were in high demand and it looked like a really good opportunity," he says. "Also, I didn't want to be in school for that long."
The fast-track trend fills a need, but it's also creating some tension between newcomers and veterans. "Nurses that are still at the bedside view these kids with suspicion," says Linda Pellico, who has taught nursing at Yale University for 18 years. …