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USI Begins Looking at the 'Whole Person' For Nursing Program Admissions — Not Just GPA

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The USI Bachelor of Science in Nursing program graduates about 100 nurses annually. Aside from adjusting admissions, USI has also recently added an application period for the program. Prospective students can now apply during the spring and summer.

New 'holistic' admission practice includes weight on GPA, along with resume, interview, personal narrative

Jennifer Evans is interim assistant dean of nursing at the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville. She spoke with Multimedia Journalist Tim Jagielo about the programs' new ' holistic' admissions program.

Jennifer Evans
The holistic admission process — it provides students an opportunity to apply and be evaluated on more than just GPA, which has traditionally been the driving variable with admission to nursing programs. So for the holistic admission process, 50-percent of the admission score is based on GPA, while the other half is based on a personal narrative, a resume and then an interview process.

Tim Jagielo
And I want to kind of talk about this word, holistic. What does it mean in this case, and why use the word holistic?

When we're talking about nursing, nursing care, we always like to talk about ‘holistic care.’ So when we talk about holistic care, that means that we look at the entire individual. So from a nursing standpoint, when we talk about holistic care, we see patients as a whole being a whole person, we're not looking at just their disease process that they are facing, we're not just addressing, for example, their diabetes that they're suffering from, we look at them as a whole person. … So from an academic part, we look at holistic as more than just a number more than just a student's GPA, we're looking at them from an overall whole-being-person is. … What other strong characteristics do they have, that are going to make them a good candidate for our nursing program, and that is going to transition into practice as they become that provider of care for patients?

All of our patients that we care for for are not one ethnicity, they're not one type of person. So we need to have a diverse nursing workforce. And to have a diverse nursing workforce, we have to have a diverse nursing student population. So when we're looking at holistic, we're looking at the whole person, we're trying to bring in a much, I guess you could say more well-rounded person rather than just looking at one aspect of their person.

Why transition to this holistic admissions process? Why is it needed?

Well, for several reasons. First of all, we are looking at bringing in a more diverse student population, that is one of the driving forces of going to holistic admissions. The other reason … there's really no hard evidence that GPA alone is the best predictor of success. And that there are other characteristics of that individual that should be taken into account that can impact their resilience and their ability to be successful.

In a program such as a nursing program, there's lots of evidence out there, indicating that leadership, critical thinking, resilience, grit, all of those characteristics also play a really essential part in student academic success. And this allows us to look at those characteristics along with the GPA.

There is obviously a shortage of nurses, the nursing workforce is looking at a major shortage and there has been for years, but now with the pandemic and all the other variables, there is a nursing shortage. So our overall goal would be yes, to increase enrollment. But the holistic admission process is not alone. Really the driving force of increasing those numbers, it's really looking more at allowing more students an opportunity to apply and be accepted into the nursing program, based on again, more than just the GPA.

What is your hope or maybe goal for this new admissions process?

…for me, personally, I think I came to USI many years ago, and I was that student who was not the perfect 4.0. But I had a lot of other strong characteristics. And I remember back then, someone gave me a chance. And I came into USI, into a program.

And I wasn’t the strongest academic student back then. I had to learn how to study, and I felt like, that chance really allowed me to blossom into what I am now and it pushed me to do my best. And so my hope is that who have a drive to succeed and may not have that perfect GPA, but have other characteristics, strong leadership, good critical thinking, very caring, are going to feel motivated to apply to our program and are going to be able to bring forth those characteristics in their letters in their interviews and on their resumes.

And they're going to get into the nursing program, nd they're going to find that they can excel. And it's going to open opportunities that are going to change their lives. Because that's what happened for me here at USI.