Nursing Faculty Loan Redemption Program Will Provide Much Needed Relief to Health Care’s Frontline Workers, Leaders Say
Trenton, NJ – In the face of a serious shortage, New Jersey became the 17th state to provide loan forgiveness for nursing faculty when Acting Governor Stephen M. Sweeney signed the Nursing Faculty Loan Redemption Program Act into law on January 16. The new law calls for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation New Jersey Nursing Initiative (NJNI) to work with the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority to create incentives for persons to enter graduate nursing education programs by providing loan redemption in exchange for full-time employment in the state as a nurse faculty member.
Declaring a nursing workforce shortage of “crisis proportions” caused, in part, by a shortage of faculty members at the state’s schools of nursing, the New Jersey state senate unanimously passed the bill on January 11. The state assembly had passed it earlier, on January 7.
“In New Jersey, as elsewhere, we are facing a debilitating shortage of nurse faculty, and as a result many of our schools of nursing are being forced to turn away qualified students who want to become nurses,” said Susan Bakewell-Sachs, Ph.D., R.N., P.N.P.-B.C., program director for NJNI and dean of the School of Nursing, Health, and Exercise Science at The College of New Jersey. “With so many nurses at or near retirement, the population aging and chronic diseases affecting more people, our state’s health care system will be strained to the breaking point. We commend lawmakers for passing the Nursing Faculty Loan Redemption Program to address this problem now, before it worsens. This law will have lasting benefits for our state’s health care system and its residents.”
The program will address the nurse faculty shortage by providing incentives for individuals to pursue masters and doctoral degrees in nursing. The minimum educational requirement for nurse faculty in New Jersey is a master’s degree in nursing (MSN), as set by the New Jersey Board of Nursing regulations. Upon graduation, the program will provide loan redemption in exchange for full-time faculty employment at a state school of nursing for five years.
Since launching in May 2009, NJNI, a multi-million dollar, five-year initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Foundation, has named 29 RWJF New Jersey Nursing Scholars. The Scholars receive full tuition and fees, a $50,000 per year stipend and a laptop computer, as well as mentoring and other support. They attend New Jersey masters and doctoral level nursing programs.
The New Jersey Collaborating Center for Nursing at Rutgers reports that there are 567 full-time nurse faculty working in the state. Their average age is 55, and 74 of them are expected to retire within five years. More than half the state’s nursing schools already limit student enrollment due, in part, to limited faculty lines. For doctorally prepared faculty in particular, it can be challenging for schools to find qualified faculty applicants.
The goal of NJNI is to increase the number of nurse faculty in the state, so there will be enough faculty to educate the next generation of nurses. For more information, visit www.NJNI.org.
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The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, we work with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 35 years we’ve brought experience, commitment and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those we serve. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, we expect to make a difference in your lifetime.
The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce is a business advocacy organization based in Trenton. Created in 1911, the State Chamber staff represents its members on a wide range of business and education issues at the State House and in Washington. The organization also links the state’s local and regional chambers on issues of importance through its grassroots legislative network.