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Robert Wood Johnson Foundation New Jersey Nursing Initiative Graduates 18 Scholars Who Will Teach the Next Generation of Nurses

Bergen County, NJ – New Jersey, like the rest of the country, is facing potentially crippling nurse and nurse faculty shortages. Without enough prospective nursing students to fill the gap or sufficient nurse faculty to teach them, the Garden State’s health will suffer and health care costs will likely increase.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) New Jersey Nursing Initiative (NJNI) is working hard to change that dire prognosis, and today announced the graduation of 18 RWJF New Jersey Nursing Scholars. Two are from Bergen county: Erin Graulich, M.S.N., B.S.N., R.N., of Fort Lee, earned her M.S.N. degree from the Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU); and Mary “Rusti” Restaino, M.S.N., M.B.A, B.S.N., R.N., of Lyndhurst, earned her M.S.N. degree from William Paterson University. Graulich is now full-time faculty in the B.S.N. program at FDU, and will begin teaching in the fall.

“It has been a tremendous honor to have been a New Jersey Nursing Scholar, and I am grateful for the wonderful opportunities this has given me” said Graulich. “I am excited to begin my work at FDU this fall, and be able to share my knowledge and experience with new nursing students.”

NJNI is a multi-year, multi-million dollar project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Foundation. The program provides generous benefits and support to help RWJF New Jersey Nursing Scholars complete their advanced degree studies. Upon graduation, Scholars have the opportunity to receive financial incentives if they become faculty members at schools of nursing in the state.

“We are so proud to announce the graduation of our first cohort of Scholars,” said NJNI Program Director Susan Bakewell-Sachs, Ph.D., R.N., P.N.P.-B.C. “They represent the future of nursing in the state and will be preparing the next generation of nurses for the health care challenges that lie ahead. We look to them to be leaders and to become an integral part of our long-term efforts to transform nursing and nurse education in New Jersey.” Bakewell-Sachs is interim provost of The College of New Jersey.

The goal of NJNI is to increase the number of nurse faculty in the state, so there will be enough nurses to meet the health care needs of New Jersey residents. The Faculty Preparation Program is a key part of NJNI’s strategy. It has awarded $13.5 million in grants to New Jersey-based nursing programs and education collaboratives, and includes 60 New Jersey Nursing Scholars who are completing master’s or doctoral degrees. Each has received a scholarship covering tuition and fees, and a $50,000 per year stipend to cover living expenses for the two to four years spent as full-time students.

Many faculty members at New Jersey nursing schools are approaching retirement, and there are not enough people in the pipeline to fill their positions. In addition, few practicing nurses have the qualifications to teach. All nurse faculty must hold at least a master’s degree. NJNI is attracting younger nurses to faculty roles; they are likely to enjoy significantly longer teaching careers than average nurse faculty members who go into higher education mid-way through their careers.

The Scholars’ graduation comes as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is embarking on a campaign to transform the nursing profession to improve health and health care.  Based on the recommendations from a groundbreaking Institute of Medicine nursing report released last year—The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, RWJF is spearheading the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action to engage nurses and non-nurses in a nationwide effort to overhaul the nursing profession. The campaign is working to implement solutions to the challenges facing the nursing profession and to build upon nurse-based approaches to improving quality and transforming the way Americans receive health care.

NJNI is a partner in this effort, and serves as the coordinating office for the New Jersey Action Coalition, an advocacy organization led by a team of recognized and highly-respected leaders in health and health care. New Jersey’s Action Coalition includes four volunteer-led work groups, each tasked with developing and implementing plans to advance a goal identified in the report as a priority. The Action Coalition draws its strength from New Jersey nursing and non-nursing leaders working together to devise solutions.

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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 health and health care, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, measureable and timely change. For nearly 40 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime. For more information, visit

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.