GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Health care facilities in Michigan and all across the United States are feeling the pinch of a nursing shortage even as the need for nurses is expected to rise in the coming years.

Working to help mitigate the problem, Ferris State University has expanded its nursing program to accept a third cohort of students.

Dr. Wendy Lenon, the department chair for FSU’s School of Nursing, told News 8 that it previously admitted 64 students into the program each year — 32 in the fall and 32 in the spring. Now, the school is adding a summer cohort, boosting its annual capacity to 96.

Lenon said it was a move that needed to be made not only to help local health care providers but also to better serve Ferris State students.

“Some of the problems come from universities and colleges across the country not being able to handle additional students because of faculty or placements or things like that,” Lenon said. “We were in a fortunate position that we were able to accommodate adding in more students to be able to impact the nursing workforce.”

Lenon said in prior years, some qualified students would get rejected from the program because it didn’t have the space. Now, with the third cohort, it was able to accept all qualified applicants.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2020, there were 3.08 million nursing positions in the United States. With the Baby Boomer generation aging, that number is expected to rise by 9% to 3.35 million in 2030. When retirements are factored in, approximately 150,000 nursing positions will open up each year.

“The generation and the change in population, (nursing trends) haven’t necessarily kept up with that. So this has been something that has been predicted and then the pandemic on top of that has created additional strain,” Lenon said. “We are saying, ‘We’re here, we have the seats,’ and we want the students to fill those seats because there is definitely a need.”

Ferris State’s nursing program is five semesters long and runs year-round. Lenon said like any nursing program, FSU’s can be tough, but overcoming that challenge is important to becoming a skilled nurse.

“It’s intense but our faculty are great. We have a lot of faculty that mentor students and we have students that aid in tutoring as well,” she said.

FSU’s program also prepares students to work beyond the hospital walls, introducing them to all sorts of settings.

“Our program does a really great job of getting nursing students an overall view of what nurses do,” Lenon told News 8. “A lot of times they’re just pictured in the hospital setting, but nurses actually practice in multiple areas and our program does a really good job of giving those nursing students a little taste of each of those things.”

Lenon said students can take advantage of the nursing shortage right now and quickly find jobs after graduating.

“There are many positions open. Our students are getting employment right away,” she said.