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New Jersey Senate committee learns of nurse faculty initiative progress

Monday February 11, 2013
From left, Susan Bakewell-Sachs, RN; Marlin Gross, RN; and Mary Ann Christopher, RN, chair of the National Advisory Committee of New Jersey Nursing Initiative, take part in the Senate hearing.
From left, Susan Bakewell-Sachs, RN; Marlin Gross, RN; and Mary Ann Christopher, RN, chair of the National Advisory Committee of New Jersey Nursing Initiative, take part in the Senate hearing.
(Photos courtesy of New Jersey Nursing Initiative)
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From left, Maria Torchia LoGrippo, RN, a doctoral student at Seton Hall University, and Marlin Gross, RN, assistant professor at Cumberland County College, testified before the Senate committee.
Aiming to address the nursing faculty shortage in the state, the New Jersey Nursing Initiative has sponsored 61 nurse scholars. Of that group, 40 have completed MSN programs, 10 are expected to graduate this spring with PhDs and 11 are on track to finish doctoral degrees in 2015.

"Long-term outcomes are going to have an impact, but in the short term, we are meeting our hope also," said Susan Bakewell-Sachs, RN, PhD, PNP-BC, program director of the NJNI and interim provost of The College of New Jersey in Ewing. She and others involved in the initiative testified in late 2012 at a New Jersey Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee hearing about progress in the initiativeís efforts to combat the nurse-faculty shortage.

The initiative reports a 10.5% nurse faculty vacancy rate. The New Jersey Collaborating Center for Nursing 2010 faculty survey indicated 163 of the stateís 563 faculty — 29% — planned to retire within five years.

The $30 million, multiyear initiative, a project launched in 2009 by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Foundation, aims to address that shortage by supporting nurses interested in teaching positions and by developing a model for successfully recruiting and retaining nurse faculty. Participating schools of nursing developed curricula for the students and included information on how to be a good faculty member.

"This program was developed as a model that, hopefully, could be used across the U.S. to integrate those education competencies into masterís and doctoral education," said Maryjoan D. Ladden, RN, PhD, FAAN, a senior program officer at RWJF.

Consequently, the programís students are expected to join and succeed in academia more quickly than traditional students. About 10 of the masterís degree graduates are teaching, including Marlin Gross, RN, MSN, who recently completed his masterís degree and now is an assistant professor at Cumberland County College in Vineland, N.J.

An incentive program encourages nurses to begin serving as faculty, but Ladden said she recognizes they also need to gain some experience in clinical roles. Four of the masterís scholars have continued their education in doctoral programs.

"We want to keep nurses connected with education, whatever they consider their primary role," Bakewell-Sachs said. "We want them to be thinking about faculty roles as part of their career trajectory."

The initiative offers full-time students in the program tuition, fees, a computer and annual stipends. The results have been meaningful.

"Sixty-one new faculty for New Jersey is huge," Ladden said.

Doctoral scholarship recipient Maria Torchia LoGrippo, RN, MSN, a PhD student at Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J., thanked the initiativeís leaders for her scholarship during Senate testimony. "It was an amazing opportunity I couldnít pass up," said LoGrippo, explaining that as a mother of two young children and the primary caregiver for her dying mother, she would have had to drop out without the scholarship.

In addition to offering scholarships, initiative leaders head up the New Jersey Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action and also developed the WeTeachNursingNJ.org website to educate nurses about the science and evidence associated with a faculty role so they can factor it into their career planning.

The site lists requirements for teaching and types of faculty positions.

The initiative also has worked with the stateís Higher Education Student Assistance Authority on the Nursing Faculty Loan Redemption Program, which pays up to $50,000 during five years on student loans, provided the nurse continues teaching in New Jersey.

Colleen Manzetti, RN, DNP, CNE, CNLCP, an assistant professor at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, N.J., told legislators the program enabled her to earn a doctorate. She also discussed the challenges associated with faculty positions paying less than clinical posts and urged lawmakers to continue funding the loan redemption program.

"That offsets the burden of my decreased salary," Manzetti told the Senate committee. "It is a privilege to teach, but financially, it is a sacrifice."


Debra Anscombe Wood, RN, is a freelance writer. Send letters to editorPA@nurse.com or post a comment below.