Testimony of Maria Torchia LoGrippo
RWJF New Jersey Nursing Scholar
Before the Senate, Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee
New Jersey State Legislature, Trenton, New Jersey
May 28, 2009

I would like to start by thanking you all for giving me the opportunity to speak today about a priceless gift I have received from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the New Jersey Nursing Initiative: the opportunity to pursue my dream to become a tenured nursing professor, a position that will let me teach, conduct research, and provide and improve patient care. I am deeply grateful for this gift, and am truly honored to be here today to testify about what it will mean for me, my family and the many others throughout the profession.

My name is Maria Torchia LoGrippo, and I teach undergraduate adult nursing courses at the College of Nursing at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey, a quaint town just 14 miles from Manhattan. I love my job as a full-time nursing professor because it lets me combine my passions for patient care, teaching and research—and also lets me “be a mom”—an ideal career to still work and be able to come home to care for my family.

Since I started teaching, I began asking myself: Could I ever achieve my dream to further my education and earn a doctoral degree so I can be a nurse leader and advance the profession. Until this month, enrolling in a Ph.D. program had simply not been an option. I have two young children to care for, and our family relies on the income I earn as a full-time professor to make ends meet. Unfortunately, we cannot afford to give up my salary if I were to become a student again.

But what seemed impossible only a few months ago is now a reality, thanks to a grant from the New Jersey Nursing Initiative’s Faculty Preparation Program. Imagine my delight earlier this month when I received the news that I was a recipient of a full tuition waiver in the doctoral program at Seton Hall University, a stipend of $50,000 a year to help cover our family’s living expenses while I am a student, and a new laptop to boot. I didn’t become a nursing teacher for the money, but I feel like I’ve hit the nursing jackpot!

For me, the scholarship is a dream come true. I have always wanted to be nurse. Ever since I was a little girl, I had shared my dream to become a nurse and care for sick people. It is a dream passed on to me from my mother, who worked for decades as a secretary in the office of an obstetrician-gynecologist. My mother never managed to realize her own dream to become a nurse, because of her limited education and finances. But given this amazing opportunity, from the RWJF, I will be able to achieve my goal to become a nursing professor.

My parents had always wanted the best for me; they wanted me to reach my potential. They made deep sacrifices so I could get a first-rate private-school education. I studied hard, got good grades, and was admitted to Georgetown University. I could afford this education because of contributions from my parents and a combination of scholarships, grants, and a work-study program. I enrolled in the School of Nursing at Georgetown, and was on my way to realizing my mother’s dream—as well as my own.

As a new college student in the nation’s capital during the early 90s, I developed a keen interest in health care policy. I followed the debate over health care reform with great interest, watched lawmakers argue the finer points of policy from the public galleries in the House and Senate, and attended congressional hearings as a part of our coursework. I soon realized that policy-makers have a much greater impact on the nation’s patient health than individual nurses. And scholarly research, I discovered, was a way that I could influence policy. A policy wonk was born.

Upon graduation from Georgetown, I stayed in the DC area and interned at the National Institutes of Health where I developed a deeper appreciation for the professional nurse’s role in biomedical research. In 1993, I returned to my home in South Jersey and began working at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. There I began practicing medical/surgical nursing and quickly decided to enroll in a Master’s program. I began my studies in Nursing Administration at the University of Pennsylvania, meeting individuals who I regard as true leaders in the education of nurses. Along with rigorous coursework and the interaction of supportive and knowledgeable faculty, I gained the necessary tools to promote and advance the profession. I continued working in the clinical setting and also at that time I discovered an innate talent for teaching as I mentored new nurses in my role as a critical care nurse. It was working with new nurses that caused my career trajectory to take a turn toward academia. I realized that as a nursing educator, I would be able to combine my love for nursing, my affinity for teaching and my interest in research—and be able to give back to a profession that has given me so much.

After spending several years in a variety of roles in clinical practice, I took an opportunity in 2005 to teach an adjunct nursing course at Drexel University and later that year took a full-time position in the College of Nursing at Seton Hall University, and this is where I hope to stay after I earn my doctorate. As a professor, I hope to influence the state of our nation’s health care—and improve patient outcomes—by passing my clinical knowledge onto the next generation of nurses, and by pursuing scholarly research that will help future nurses become agents of change in health care reform.

I am excited to move into this next phase of my professional life, and I take heart in the knowledge that I will be able to play a small part in curbing, and even reversing, the looming nursing shortage in New Jersey and nationwide by helping train the next generation of nurses. As other speakers have said, supporting nurse educators is critical. Supporting nursing education means providing quality nursing educational programs that will meet the enormous projected demands for nursing services.

I want to thank the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for giving me the opportunity to be part of the solution to that problem. And I want to thank members of this Committee for letting me speak today about how I will do that. Thank you.