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High Demand for Meaningful Employment

Souvenirs from Galen Day.

Asheville – January 31 was Galen Day at the Biltmore Park Towne Square campus. To recruit for the vast shortages of nurses projected for the coming years, the event was designed as an open house. Attendees enjoyed complimentary snacks, like popcorn and dark chocolate cherry KIND bars. They also had a chance to talk to counselors about finding the right career path and obtaining financial aid.

Potential recruits enjoyed a guided tour of the facility, starting in the uniform store and passing offices and classrooms. The main attraction was the two practice clinics set up like emergency rooms. They featured life-size mannequins in beds as well as prosthetic arms, which have replaced the old-school oranges for practicing needle pokes.

The mannequins are computerized so they can talk, blink, breathe, and otherwise respond as a human might in a particular situation. The mannequin named Apollo, they were told, could be made to suffer all kinds of emergency room situations.

Much was made about Lucinda. She’s the mannequin that gives birth. Visitors were told that students don’t always see what they need to when they’re getting their nursing practice in the field. When things get messy, like when a patient goes into labor, one of the first things that happens is that students get whisked from the room.

Lucinda is a Betsy Wetsy on steroids. She bleeds and performs other stunts typical of childbirth. Students were told that at other schools, nurses might practice a delivery in groups of ten or so, with one person only getting the hands-on experience. At Galen, they work in small groups, if not by themselves, interacting closely with faculty, who oversee the exercise in another room via camera and microphone. If the student messes up, there’s ample time for more education and do-overs.

Andy Stillwagon, who works out of Galen’s main campus in Louisville, Kentucky, signs his emails with, “We change the life of one to care for the lives of many.” He said what sets Galen apart from other nursing schools is its exclusive focus on nursing. “Maintaining a focus as a single-purpose nursing college allows Galen to direct all its resources to providing high-quality, innovative programs to those who choose nursing as a career.”

Asheville is just one of seventeen Galen campuses, which are all located in the Southeastern United States. When it was founded in 1989 by Humana, it only offered a one-year program for licensed practical nurses. HCA Healthcare purchased a majority stake in the school in 2020, and it now offers eight nursing programs.

The Asheville campus offers an associate’s degree with an expedited track for licensed nurses and a three-year bachelor of science degree with an expedited track for registered nurses. Online options for master’s degrees are also available. The college is very liberal about transferring credits, but it offers all required classes on campus as well.

Galen teaches a combination of theory and clinical experience. Venues where students may go for clinicals include any number of Mission Hospital’s departments, Care Partners, and other nursing homes. Assignments depend on the individual student’s curriculum and career aspirations. For students unsure about where they want to work, the campus frequently hosts representatives from the local healthcare industry for meet-and-greets. Job placement assistance is also available upon request.

Galen Day visitors were shown a scribble wall students can use to share why they’re pursuing a career in nursing. Comments, all in flowery penmanship, spoke of wanting to be helpful to people in need. One expressed the writer’s wish to share God’s love.

“With 275,000 new nurses needed by 2030, Galen is committed to increasing access to quality nursing education in more communities with limited access to nursing education resources,” said Stillwell. “Because everyone deserves a great nurse when they need it most,” he said.

One potential barrier to enrollment is that Galen graduates students in cohorts. There’s no matriculation. Should problems with life or work arise, Galen does grant students, per federal guidelines, the flexibility of graduating in half-again as much time as the standard curriculum timeline.

Another obstacle could be tuition. Books and tuition for the BSN option could cost $18,350, but this can be substantially reduced with federal grants and loans. Mission HCA reimburses up to $5,250 a year in tuition expenses for employees in the RN to BSN program, unless they’re unionized and disqualified by the terms of their collective bargaining contract.

Any investment should pay dividends, though. According to literature published by Galen, “The national median salary is approximately $47,480 for practical nurses and $73,300 for registered nurses as of May 2019.”