The air conditioner whirred in the chilling room painted with golden walls. A bouquet of bright, gold flowers sat atop the counter, which hid two secretaries donning the sunny color. Despite all the cheerful yellow, one couldn’t help but feel anxious.

The students sat in the advisory waiting room for the College of Nursing and Health Solutions at Arizona State University Downtown would soon talk seriously with their advisors about their future careers. For some students, nursing just wasn’t the best option.

“We didn’t want to scare students. We wanted to be respectful, and I think that’s still a piece we want to do,” said Kim Brownsberger, academic success coordinator for nursing students. “So one of the things we’ve instituted is in ASU 101, we’re now talking to students right off the get-go: you have to have a back-up plan.”

Students interested in nursing can be split into two groups: direct admission and competitive applicants. Direct admit students have a guaranteed spot in the nursing program, as long as they keep their grade point average of 3.5 or higher and score well on their Test of Essential Academic Skills. Competitive applicants do not have that guaranteed spot, as they did not meet the initial requirements for ASU’s particular program.

Direct admit students get to be considered a nursing major, while competitive applicants can be of any major. The three majors most competitive applicants choose are Care Coordination, Integrative Health, and, the most common, Community Health.

“We used to have a degree that was called Pre-Nursing and that’s where students came into take their first two years of lower-division courses,” said Katherine Kenny, the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at ASU for nursing students. “But if they didn’t get in to the nursing program they had to select another major, and often times there wasn’t anything that was closely aligned with nursing that did not lead to a nursing license.”

In the past years, ASU underwent a change in its academic structure for students interested in nursing. Instead of training applicants to be nurses even with a chance of denial, the university now offers other majors which align with the healthcare industry and nursing.

“The Community Health major is a good option for students that aren’t able to make it into nursing, because that can provide them with a double major if they choose to do nursing,” Allison Tooms said. “Something that [The College of Nursing and Health Solutions] is really pushing and something that nursing is really pushing is that… the nursing field jobs are changing.”

Allison Tooms, a Residential Community Student Leader and fourth-year nursing student, knew she wanted to go into medicine “essentially the day [she] was born.” She encouraged anyone to pursue the passion of health and didn’t want the competitive aspects of nursing to shy potential applicants away from the field.

“I think medicine is a field that is incredible and changing and just because you aren’t a nurse doesn’t mean that you can’t impact people’s lives,” Tooms said. “You can always go back and get your nursing degree at a time when, you know, things might be different.”

However, both Brownsberger and Kenny stressed the difficulties of the nursing program and the rigorous courses. Kenny explained the need for competition in the field.

“Every student admitted to the nursing major must complete direct care clinical hours in our community,” Kenny said. “Across Arizona there are over 40 schools that are competing for placements in the same organization… We’re actually competing with other schools where their students need the exact same experiences that ours do.”

Due to the lack of clinical openings and college staff, the strict limitations prevent students from progressing.

“There are a lot of people who are qualified to be nurses that don’t get into the program, and that’s not only in our state,” Brownsberger said.

Although obstacles block the path, even with the frequent cuts, the health field always has opportunities for those interested, and ASU’s faculty guides students along that path, according to Tooms.

“These nurses are so supportive and so caring and they listen and they know you, they know your name, they know that I have a boyfriend, they ask me about him,” Tooms said. “It’s little things, and it really is a family and having that family that’s honestly going through the same stresses that you are provides that amazing network of support and can really lift you up and cause you to be successful.”

The faculty ensured that the health profession holds endless opportunities and different divisions for students.

“There’s so much that runs our health care, and there’s so many caring positions,” Brownsberger said. “There’s just so much in the healthcare field and people just know this little slice called a nurse, and it makes good money. But there’s a lot of other areas that make pretty good money that can be really satisfying jobs, it’s just not the known.”