Pre-nursing program, in partnership with Goldfarb School of Nursing, meets needs of working adults with little or no college

Erica Jenkins’ path to nursing started 19 years ago in the Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

That’s where she spent day and night with her son Jaylon, a 26-week preemie who weighed less than 2 pounds. One day, Jenkins fell ill and had to go home. It pained her to leave but a nurse named Michelle — Jenkins never got her last name — put her at ease. 

“When I got back, I saw that Michelle had decorated Jaylon’s little isolette just like I would do,” recalled Jenkins, now a medical assistant at the Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine Diabetes Center. “I can’t tell you how good that made me feel. I realized that day I wanted to be that nurse who steps in and cares for someone’s family member when they need it most.”

Today, Jaylon is strong and healthy, and Jenkins is on track to complete the pre-nursing program at the School of Continuing & Professional Studies (CAPS) at Washington University. The program gives School of Medicine employees and other working adults the academic foundation they need to enter a bachelor’s of nursing (BSN) program. The program is flexible, feasible and for most university employees, free. 

“There is a lot more work ahead,” said Jenkins, who starts the Barnes-Jewish College Goldfarb School of Nursing Weekend and Evening Option (WEO) this fall. “But I’m getting there.” 

For 90 years, CAPS has served the changing needs of adult learners. In recent years, it has introduced certificate and degree programs in high-demand fields and added more online options. And this spring, CAPS unveils a strategic plan that prioritizes access to underemployed and unemployed St. Louisans while better meeting the needs of the St. Louis economy. 

And what does St. Louis need? Nurses. According to the Missouri Hospital Association, some 20% of the region’s nursing positions are unfilled. These are good jobs, paying upwards of $100,000 annually. But working adults with little or no college have struggled to find affordable pathways into the field.

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