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Inside UK's prestigious nursing program

In the fall of 2021, the University of Kentucky was home to 528 pre-nursing majors. Each semester, only 100 of the determined students will be admitted into the school's prestigious nursing program.

The highly competitive BSN program at UK is considered one of the best in the nation—ranked No. 20 among all public universities by U.S. News and World Report, according to the UK College of Nursing website. Last April, UK HealthCare reclaimed their Magnet status, a recognition they have maintained since 2016. Magnet status is granted by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s (ANCC) Magnet Recognition Program and represents the “highest institutional honor and gold standard for nursing excellence,” according to UKNOW.

The reputation of the nurses within the program precedes them with students and patients often testifying to the extreme amount of detail and care they put into each individual they treat.

“I knew that the nursing program at UK was good but I didn't really get to experience it for myself until [COVID-19] hit,” junior Sarah Outland said. “Every time I had to get tested and later get my vaccine, there was always a UK nursing student that talked me through everything and just made me feel so much more comfortable.”

Considering the layout of the program, it is no wonder that nursing students are thoroughly educated and prepared for any medical situation that comes their way, even a global pandemic.

Prospective nurses must first apply to UK for admission as a pre-nursing major. To achieve admission, the student must have a 3.4 or higher unweighted high school GPA and the ability to place in Chemistry for Health Professionals (CHE 103) at the start of the spring semester, according to the UK College of Nursing website. Following the completion of all prerequisites, students may apply for admission to UK’s Professional Nursing Program, as long as they have at least a 3.0 cumulative GPA and participate in an interview shaped around scenario-based questions.

“I can understand how it could be extremely nerve-racking because if you don't get in at all [either the fall or spring semester], then you either have to wait until the next year or you change your major to do something else,” senior Olivia Wood said.

Following admission to the program, students operate on an innovative block schedule to familiarize themselves with many different aspects of healthcare. Each nursing student has two blocks per semester, with two or three courses per block. These courses are shorter to accommodate for the condensed schedule, with finals after about eight weeks.

For example, within one semester a student could complete their medical-surgical rounds and foundations of pathopharmacology for the first half and then shift focus to maternity and reproductive health and some form of conceptual course for the second half.

“The advantage of this schedule is that it allows us to focus on a specific topic in nursing at one time like psychiatric nursing, pediatric nursing, med-surg nursing and more. The disadvantage to this schedule is that everything is very fast paced. There is a lot of information to take in during an eight week period which can become overwhelming and frustrating to some students,” senior Tyler Gonzalez said.

It has long been said that if one is to pursue a job in healthcare, they must be really passionate about what they do in order to prevent burnout. Hours can be long, patients

can be unpredictable and the job can eventually

take a toll, despite all its rewards.

UK introduces this concept to their students early on by requiring them to participate in clinicals on-site at the UK HealthCare hospital. This hospital, located within walking distance of campus, has undertaken three clinical strategic plans to secure its position as a research-intensive, referral academic medical center, according to the National Library of Medicine.

“There are big issues with compassion fatigue. You just have to keep caring and caring for patients and it's like the influx of patients is never going to end. That can be really hard for people staying in the field,” senior Hannah Abukwaik said.

All things considered, students often find that the rewards of the profession outweigh all the stress and long hours. Students gain hands-on experiences that alter their outlook on caring for patients and the world around them while bonding together to create a community that stays with them throughout their education.

“Probably the most special moment that I’m never going to forget is when I got to help deliver a baby. That was amazing," senior Laurel Hinze said. "I literally left and cried that day because I was so happy. I will never forget the mom, her husband and her baby. And I won't forget the doctors and the nurses."

Healthcare is unique because it is a profession that constantly relies on other people. Patients rely on their providers—their doctors, nurses, surgeons, anesthesiologists, X-ray techs and more. Nursing students however, rely on their professors, advisors and—possibly most significantly—each other.

“I really like how our class has become bonded throughout it all. We've definitely lost a few key players here and there but we’ve had this big GroupMe since we started the program and through clinicals you really get to know the other people in your class,” Abukwaik said. “The professors at UK also really care about what their students are going through and how well they're learning ... they have a good heart and they want you to succeed.”

It can only be expected that the draw this program has on aspiring nurses will continue for years to come. With UK Nursing’s BSN students consistently maintaining over a 98% NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses) pass rate, graduates enter the workforce prepared and passionate about the changes they can make in the lives of every patient they encounter.

For more information on the program visit


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