It all starts in the classroom if you want to be a nurse. But when the future of nursing depends on filling the classroom seats, the lack of enrollment in the nursing program at Southeast Missouri University isn't reassuring. "Last year I couldn't fill the seats. We had enough room for 30 students twice a year and we only had 21 students for those 30 spots," says A. Louise Hart, the chair of SEMO's nursing department. The word about the need for nurses must be getting out though ,because next year's enrollment is a different story. "I already have a waiting list. For 30 spots we have 45 wanting to get in," says Hart.
But are future nurses willing to go where they're most desperately needed? By a show of hands, two-thirds of a class of sophomore nursing students all want to work in a hospital. But health workers fear there's too big of a gap between the number of nurses to be and the ones set to retire. "The average age of the practicing nurse is 44," says Hart. And most hospital nurses retire in their early fifties.