Testimony of David Anthony Forrester
University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, School of Nursing
Before the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee
New Jersey State Legislature, Trenton, New Jersey
May 28, 2009
Good morning. Thank you for the opportunity to testify here today. My name is David Anthony Forrester, Ph.D., R.N., ANEF. I have been a nurse for 35 years and a nurse educator for 30 years. I taught at Rutgers University College of Nursing and at Pace University’s Leinhard of Nursing, and I have been at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, School of Nursing for 21 years as Associate Dean and tenured full professor. My areas of specialization are adult emergency/ trauma, critical care, and psychiatric/mental health nursing.
Being a nurse and a nurse faculty member is one of the greatest jobs in the world. I love my work. I love teaching the next generation of nurses. I love the impact I have on young nurses, and on the patients they will care for.
I love being part of this profession. Nursing education provides a great way to make a living; it has been good for me and for my family. It has helped give us rich, fulfilling lives.
I love that, as a nurse, I learn so much about the human condition and am witness to the profound passages of human experience, from birth to death, and help individuals stay healthy, recover from illness, live higher quality lives with chronic illness, and even help them cope with dying. As a nurse, I contribute to the betterment of the public’s health. No other profession can magnify the good you can do for society the way nursing can—and by teaching young nurses, I am able to multiply my impact a thousand-fold.
Nursing is a knowledge-based profession. Nurses provide evidence-based patient care which is based on scientific research, and many nurses, like myself, are scholars who conduct research and advance the knowledge base for the discipline.
As a nurse I can work anywhere in the United States or the world for that matter. There is always a need for nursing services, and that need will grow in the years ahead. In fact, there is a desperate need for more people in this field. If we had enough faculty and space, we could easily triple enrollment at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ), School of Nursing.
We are turning away qualified applicants—young people who want to do this work, have the intelligence and talent for this work, and can make a difference through nursing. We’re turning them away because we have limited faculty to teach them. That’s a terrible shame, especially given the expected growth in demand for health care and the severe shortage of nurses.
The shortage of nurse faculty in New Jersey right now is especially worrisome because the nurse faculty workforce is maturing. We urgently need younger colleagues to join us and eventually take our places, especially as the State’s population ages and demand for health care grows.
Unless we put more nurse faculty in place, the public health will suffer. Acute care hospitals are about providing nursing care—if you are hospitalized, it is because you need nursing care. Having fewer nurses leads to negative patient outcomes, more complications, and higher mortality rates.
We need more than simply "competent" nurses; we need expert, evidence-based nursing care—and we need nurse faculty to produce the kind of knowledgeable and skilled nurses to provide that care.
I am 55 years old, and I intend to teach for quite a while longer. But when the time comes, I worry that retirement will be difficult because we won’t have enough new nurse faculty prepared at the doctoral level. Put simply, I worry that there won’t be someone to take my place.
Some say one of the hurdles to addressing the nurse faculty shortage is related to faculty salaries. I cannot speak for all, but I have served as a member of the board of governors of UMDNJ’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors, and I attribute the competitive salaries offered at UMDNJ to the acknowledgement among those within our university of market conditions and the importance of fair compensation.
Let me also mention one important role nurses play that often is overlooked. From natural or man-made disasters to H1N1 (swine) flu and food poisoning, emergency preparedness depends on nurses. The more well-educated nurses we have, the safer we are as a State and as a country. If we care about emergency preparedness, we have to care about solving the nursing shortage that lies ahead, and the only way to solve it is to produce more nurse faculty to prepare the next generation of expert nurses.
At the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, School of Nursing, we just had our commencement. As was the case in other years, I looked out at the audience with so much joy and pride. I saw nurse graduates who were the first in their families to have the chance to earn a college degree, and I saw the incredible pride on their parents’ faces as they picked up those degrees.
But I know something more: that the pride those parents felt that day was only the beginning, because their daughters and sons will care for patients, conduct research, teach, and do much more to continue making them proud for years and years to come.
Not for a single minute have I ever regretted choosing nursing as my career. Being a nurse faculty member has changed my life and, because of it, I have changed others’ lives. I feel very lucky, and my colleagues in nursing education feel the same way.
So I applaud the New Jersey Nursing Initiative, and thank the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce for leading it. Creating opportunities for more young people to become nurse faculty is good for them, good for their families, good for our health care system, good for New Jersey, and good for the country. Thank you.