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Saturday, September 23, 2023

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Reece Kerstetter in the School of Nursing Skills lab at San Diego State University. Reece Kerstetter in the School of Nursing Skills lab at San Diego State University.

Cheer on SDSU's Nursing Students – It's National Nurses Week

At SDSU, there are currently 690 undergraduates and 55 graduate students in the School of Nursing.
By Peggy Pico

Reece Kerstetter relentlessly begged his father, a firefighter and paramedic, to take him to work. He was in the third grade when his dad finally gave in and let him tag along. Over the years, he watched his dad resuscitate a man, treat bloody wounds and help countless people on their worst days, but he always wondered what happened next.  

“I wanted to follow in my dad’s footsteps, but dad recognized I was more interested in treating the whole person and suggested I go into nursing so, as he put it, I could stay with the patients and help them recover,” said Kerstetter. “Then, in 2018, the best thing happened: I got accepted as a direct admit freshman to the School of Nursing at San Diego State. That’s rare!” 

Kerstetter is graduating with a 4.0 GPA and a bachelor’s degree in nursing and is one of two valedictorians at the San Diego State University School of Nursing 2022 commencement ceremony. And he’s still taking time to celebrate National Nurses Week, which runs from May 6-12. 

“It’s important to me to recognize nurses that are still working on the front lines and picking up the pieces from the pandemic,” said Kerstetter.

Even as the pandemic took its toll on medical workers, applications to SDSU’s nursing program surged, and the trend continued across the U.S. In a report by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, enrollment in nursing programs was 6% higher in 2020 compared to the year before. 

“Our nursing students have experienced unprecedented times, learning to be nurses during the pandemic. We must celebrate their flexibility, resiliency, and dedication to complete their studies,” said Karen Macauley, director of SDSU’s School of Nursing. 

In addition to being dedicated and having exceptional real-life clinical experiences in college, it takes more than a nursing degree to work as a Registered Nurse (RN.)  Students must also pass California’s rigorous licensing exam from the Board of Registered Nursing. The BRN reported that the pass rate for SDSU nursing students who took the exam last year was 95.8%, significantly higher than the national average of 86.5%. That’s good news for the three million RNs in the U.S. who are currently employed and often understaffed. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurses also make up the largest percentage of the nation’s health care workforce, outnumbering physicians four to one. Locally, the San Diego Workforce Partnership said there are 16,000 RNs in the region. At SDSU, there are currently 690 undergraduates and 55 graduate students in the School of Nursing.  

“The nursing workforce has endured significant challenges coping with the pandemic. It’s a crucial time for the nursing profession to unite and for our incredible students to lead and direct new ways of providing care,” said Macauley.
Kerstetter is eager to impact the profession and wants to “advocate for fair and equal access for all patients.” 

He’s already received job offers from the Mayo Clinic, Duke University, Stanford University, the University of California San Diego, and UCLA but all are contingent upon him passing the BRN exam this summer.  He’s leaning toward the Southern California options. Until then, Kerstetter continues to support his fellow nursing students and offers this encouragement  

“Even during difficult situations where you doubt your capabilities– you can definitely do this. We need you now– so go ahead and celebrate National Nursing Week,” he said. “You’re going to make it!”