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Sandy Journal

Nursing program without waitlist opens campus in Sandy

Sep 08, 2022 11:11AM ● By Heather Lawrence

Grand Canyon University has opened a nursing program and state-of-the-art training lab in Sandy. The lab is located near Hale Center Theatre and Sandy City Hall. The private, for-profit school currently has no waitlist and can enroll 72 students, three times a year. 

“We’re concerned with the numbers of nursing students who are turned away from programs, due mostly to the lack of openings,” said Brenda Solari, site director for the Sandy GCU lab at 150 Civic Center Dr. 

“Many applicants are on track academically or have degrees in other areas, but there aren’t enough openings. Right now we’re facing a nursing shortage and burnout from years of Covid, so we can’t afford to be turning willing nursing students away,” Solari said. 

GCU is an accelerated bachelor of nursing program (ABSN), and all the pre-nursing credits can be done online. 

“Our students go year round, so we are able to get them done in as soon as 16 months, and many of them come to us already having some college credits.

“Schools like BYU and University of Utah take students right out of high school to start their programs, so it takes longer. But our accreditation, done through CCNE, is the same as other schools,” Solari said. 

GCU’s main campus is in Arizona. The Sandy site is the third one they’ve opened, and the first one outside of Arizona. A Las Vegas campus is in the works. 

“We have a vision to expand to 20-30 sites like this across the country in the next few years. We’re looking at the demand and good clinical partnerships. Here in Utah we work with Intermountain Healthcare and our students have a chance to train in their hospitals and also some long-term care facilities,” said Andrew Marmo, executive director of the program. 

As healthcare changes and integrates further with technology, Marmo said their new lab has a lot of advantages. 

“Our interactive learning lab is a safe place where students can learn skills, but also make mistakes. And we cultivate a culture where mistakes are a way to learn and grow,” Marmo said. 

The SIM, or simulation, lab is meant to imitate real patients and medical scenarios. Students learn traditional skills like starting an IV and administering medications. 

It’s populated by mannequins that can cry, calculate how much pressure a student puts on them and dilate their pupils. They can even give birth. 

“The Sandy lab is the largest location GCU has built—it’s over 28,000 square feet. We have two four-bed simulation suites that are set up just like a hospital room,” said Miranda Malone, director of nursing services for GCU. 

“This is an immersive simulation program. We start by giving the student the ‘patient’s’ medical report, just like a team would do during rounding on a medical floor. They walk into the room and have to assess the mannequin patient and figure out what to do,” Malone said.

For more information on the program, visit and search the ABSN program.

One of GCU Sandy’s first students is Cecily Morales. Morales already had a bachelor’s degree in public health when she started the program. She’ll be part of the first graduating class. 

“I grew up in a small town in California near the Bay Area. I always wanted to be a nurse. I think I have that instinct and I like taking care of people. But it’s very hard to get into a nursing program in California because there aren’t many openings,” Morales said. 

As a backup plan, she completed her degree, but the goal of nursing never left her. A friend told her about GCU, and though she needed to move to Utah, it was worth it. 

“It seemed too good to be true. I talked to a recruiter who answered all my questions, and they told me a new campus was opening in Salt Lake (Sandy). The tuition was good, and I didn’t have a lot tying me to California, so I decided to move,” Morales said. 

Morales had concerns about the quality of an accelerated degree, but she’s found that the fast pace doesn’t mean quality suffers. 

“It’s flexible, that part is true. You could work full time if you had to or wanted to. But I don’t recommend it—you’re going to want to devote all your time to studying,” Morales said. 

 “There are good resources here. We go into the SIM labs, but are only faced with scenarios we’ve learned about, so the difficulty level increases as we progress. 

“Everything is applicable to what you’d see in a patient’s room. There are walkers, wheelchairs, nasal cannulas. And they record us and we watch what we did. That’s not everyone’s favorite part, but it helps. And when we’re done we talk about everything, and mistakes are opportunities to learn,” Morales said.  

Morales said the labs and clinical rotations are good learning tools. She’s always known nursing is where she belongs. She’s glad to have been given a chance to follow that path. 

“This is a career for someone who wants to feel a sense of pride and make a difference in people’s lives,” Morales said. 

“It’s hard, but for someone who really wants to do it and is dedicated and ambitious it’s a rewarding experience.” λ