In This Issue

NJNI Celebrates Second Cohort of Master’s Candidates’ Program Completion
Leader’s Column – A Collaborative Learning Community That Endures
NJNI Scholar Plans to ‘Pay it Forward’
We Teach Nursing NJ Launches
Did You Know…?

NJNI Celebrates Second Cohort of Master’s Candidates’ Program Completion

On April 20, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) New Jersey Nursing Initiative (NJNI) held a graduation ceremony for 19 New Jersey Nursing Scholars who have completed the NJNI Collaborative Learning Community program and will soon be newly minted MSNs ready to join the nurse faculty workforce.

In addition to celebrating the graduation of the second cohort of New Jersey Nursing Scholars, the spring meeting featured Collaborative Learning Community sessions that informed the Scholars about important resources and concepts they can use to strengthen their teaching skills and help their students learn. The two featured speakers were Jean Giddens, PhD, RN, FAAN, a professor and executive dean at the College of Nursing, University of New Mexico and Claire Donaghy, PhD, CCRN, ACNP, BC, CNE, associate professor at the Department of Nursing at William Paterson University.

A “Neighborhood” for Learning
Giddens, who is an RWJF Executive Nurse Fellow, conducted a highly interactive session on a concept-based approach to nursing education. She discussed how that approach can be integrated into curricula and teaching: concept-based curricula are intended to help learners make cognitive connections rather than memorize facts.

Giddens is also the principal investigator of an Evaluating Innovations in Nursing Education (EIN) project, which is evaluating a teaching tool called The Neighborhood—an online, interactive program that uses a virtual community to teach nursing students to identify and diagnose health problems and provide appropriate patient care. Giddens developed the program herself, creating characters, developing their stories and medical histories, writing The Neighborhood newspaper and even filming vignettes featuring the characters. The goal is to give students a deeper level of understanding about the characters and their health issues, so they will relate better to patients. She described how The Neighborhood uses concept-based learning and how she uses it in her classroom. EIN is an RWJF program that supports evaluations of interventions that expand teaching capacity or promote faculty recruitment and retention in nursing schools.

Focusing on Quality and Safety

Later in the afternoon, Donaghy, who teaches both bachelor’s and master’s degree students, discussed integration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Quality and Safety Education for Nurses (QSEN) into a nursing curriculum. QSEN addresses a set of quality and safety competencies that nurses must master. Those competencies, identified by the Institute of Medicine in 2003, are: patient-centered care, teamwork and collaboration; evidence based practice; quality improvement; and safety and informatics. Donaghy explained how the QSEN competencies were integrated into the nursing curriculum at William Paterson University and why they are important to improving nursing education and the quality of care nurses provide.

19 New Graduates
The day culminated with a graduation ceremony for the 19 master’s degree candidates. Susan Bakewell-Sachs, PhD, RN, PNP-BC, program director for NJNI, gave closing remarks, congratulated the graduates and encouraged them to carry the lessons they have learned into their new roles as faculty. Bakewell-Sachs, Dana Egreczky, president of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Maryjoan Ladden, PhD, RN, FAAN, senior program officer at RWJF, and Lynn Mertz, PhD, deputy program director for NJNI, presented the graduates with their certificates and special gold pins indicating that they are all now RWJF alumni.

“We are extremely proud of all of you,” said Bakewell-Sachs. “The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Foundation have made a wise investment in you and your careers as nurse faculty and we look forward to seeing you achieve great things as you teach, inspire and lead the next generation of nurses.”

The 19 master’s degree candidates who have completed the NJNI Faculty Preparation Program are:

Jamie Bowman, BSN, RN, Fairleigh Dickinson University
Ruta Brazaitis, BSN, RN, William Paterson University
Christine Brewer, BSN, RN, Fairleigh Dickinson University
Catherine Carlton, BSN, RN, Fairleigh Dickinson University
Tammy Cooper, BSN, RN-BC, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey
Diane Cukrow, BSN, RN, Fairleigh Dickinson University
Marjory Desulme, BSN, RN, Fairleigh Dickinson University
Caitlin Fett, BSN, RN, The College of New Jersey
Nancy Flood, BSN, RN, Monmouth University
Marlin Gross, BSN, RN, Richard Stockton University
Stephanie Henson, BSN, RN, Richard Stockton University
Karen Hoary, BSN, RN, Monmouth University
Renee Kurz, BSN, RN, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey
Tony Malek, BSN, RN, CBN, Fairleigh Dickinson University
Alexander Manning, BSN, RN, The College of New Jersey
Nancy Mills, BSN, RN, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey
Shelby Pitts, BSN, RN, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey
Grace Qarmout, BSN, RN, Fairleigh Dickinson University
Laura Zakresy, BSN, RN, Kean University
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Leader’s Column – A Collaborative Learning Community That Endures

By Diane M. Billings, EdD, RN, FAAN, chancellor’s professor emerita at Indiana University’s School of Nursing in Indianapolis and facilitator of the New Jersey Nursing Initiative’s Collaborative Learning Community

In keeping with the mission of the New Jersey Nursing Initiative (NJNI) to reduce the faculty shortage in New Jersey, NJNI’s Faculty Preparation Program (FPP) has graduated its second cohort of MSN nurses. They have been prepared to assume faculty roles in schools of nursing. These Scholars will join the ranks of the Scholars from the previous cohort and the faculty and mentors who have participated in this program over the last two years and are now teaching in schools of nursing in New Jersey.

The goal of the FPP is to help Scholars meet educator competencies and blend these skills with clinical and research expertise. An integral component of the FPP is the Collaborative Learning Community (CLC), a network of all Scholars, their mentors, and the principal investigators and administrators of the grants that support the program. This community is developed and sustained through on-site as well as real-time connections made through web conferencing (Webinars). Social networks (Facebook) and professional networks (LinkedIn) provide vehicles for continuous communication and dissemination of information.

CLC meetings offer sessions aimed at developing nurse educator competencies to enrich the academic and experiential learning that occur in the Scholars’ academic programs. Key leaders in nursing education have been speakers on topics as wide ranging as innovations in teaching and learning, new models of clinical education, assessment and evaluation strategies, working with diverse learners and developing curricula for the future. A series of “career builder” Webinars helped Scholars develop and enhance their professional identities as nurse faculty.

The meetings of the CLC also complement the work of NJNI and the New Jersey Action Coalition. For example, CLC members have heard from national leaders about building capacity in learning innovations such as simulations; new models of clinical education such as a dedicated education unit; and strategies such as dual admission to promote state goals to increase the number of BSN and PhD prepared nurses.

The content of the CLC meetings is also guided by reports from national groups such as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-supported Institute of Medicine’s The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health. The CLC participants have had the opportunity to hear firsthand from Susan B. Hassmiller, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s senior adviser for nursing, about this report and its recommendations, and have integrated this work into the content of meetings and Webinars.

Upon graduation, the Scholars are ready to assume faculty positions. As CLC participants, each has developed a competitive resume/curriculum vitae and a portfolio documenting his or her attainment of educator competencies.  Several Scholars have had opportunities to publish their work in scholarly nursing journals, present at local, state and national meetings, and disseminate their work through poster presentations. Scholars also have attended state and national educator meetings, met with leaders in the field and become socialized to the role of a nurse educator.

Changes in higher education, redesigned health care systems, increasing use of technology in both higher education and health care, and an increasingly diverse body of student nurses entering nursing programs at all levels will continue to offer challenges to nurse educators.  The Scholars who have participated in NJNI’s Faculty Preparation Program are ready to respond to and provide leadership to help meet these challenges.
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NJNI Scholar Plans to ‘Pay it Forward’

Maria Torchia LoGripoAfter she graduates, New Jersey Nursing Scholar Maria Torchia LoGrippo plans to become a nursing professor so she can help build the pipeline of nurses and research ways to narrow health disparities.

Three years ago, Maria Torchia LoGrippo got the news of a lifetime: She had been selected to receive a prestigious scholarship that put her on course to achieving her professional dreams.

But it wasn’t until later that she realized the deeper value of the scholarship, which is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) New Jersey Nursing Initiative (NJNI). In addition to a full tuition waiver in the doctoral nursing program at Seton Hall University, a stipend of $50,000 a year, and a new laptop computer, LoGrippo discovered later that she would also be learning from the crème de la crème of academic nursing.

When LoGrippo—a member of NJNI’s Faculty Preparation Program’s inaugural cohort in 2009—attended the first program conference that fall, she was surprised, and delighted, to see that Patricia Benner, PhD, RN, FAAN, a noted nursing educator and author of From Novice to Expert: Excellence and Power in Nursing Practice, would be giving the keynote address.

“I was truly honored and humbled when I received the scholarship,” said LoGrippo, MSN, RN. “But when I went to our first conference and found out such a highly acclaimed nurse leader would be speaking to us, I thought , ‘Wow. This is such an amazing opportunity I was given. I really have to live up to it. I really have an enormous responsibility to give back to the profession.’”

Benner was not the only national nurse leader to address the 29 members of that inaugural NJNI cohort, and her speech hasn’t been the only highlight of the program.

Over the past two years, LoGrippo has had the opportunity to present testimony on the nurse faculty shortage to members of the New Jersey State Legislature; present a “poster” on the importance of teaching students the business of health care at the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s (AACN) 2012 Faculty Practice Pre-Conference in San Antonio, Texas; and attend a health policy conference and educate members of Congress in Washington, D.C., on March 21, 2010—the same day that the health  care reform bill was enacted. “It was a great opportunity,” she said. “I felt very fortunate to be in our nation’s capital at such an important time.”

These opportunities were made possible by RWJF, which has joined the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Foundation to support NJNI, a multi-year, $30 million project working to transform nursing education in the state. Its goal is to ensure that New Jersey has the well prepared, diverse nurse faculty it needs to educate nurses to meet the demand for health and health care in the 21st century.

One key facet of the initiative is NJNI’s Faculty Preparation Program, which is helping 61 New Jersey Nursing Scholars advance their education in preparation for nurse faculty positions.

Many, like LoGrippo, would not have been able to pursue advanced degrees had it not been for the program’s support. Before enrolling in the program, LoGrippo was a full-time faculty associate at the College of Nursing at Seton Hall University and had been encouraged by the school’s dean and other faculty members to earn her doctorate. A PhD, she was told, would allow her to teach at a higher level and secure funding for her research priorities.

But she could not give up her job to advance her education because her family relied on her income to make ends meet. Attending school on nights and weekends was also not on option; she needed to tend to her two young children during those hours.

The scholarship, however, enabled her to give up her job and go to school on a full-time basis and continue to support her family. It proved invaluable a year into the program, when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and LoGrippo assumed responsibility for her care while her husband ran for local office.

“If I had been trying to do this and go to school and work at the same time, I would have had to drop out,” she said. “I could not have done this without the support of my colleagues and this program.”

Researching Ways Nurses Can Narrow Health Disparities
As a professor, LoGrippo will be working to improve health care in two key ways. First, by training the next generation of nurses and nurse educators, she will help alleviate a looming nurse shortage. And second, by conducting research into ways nurses can improve access to care, she hopes to narrow health disparities based on race and class.

LoGrippo is currently researching levels of trust between pregnant women and certified nurse-midwives. She hopes to gather evidence on how trusting relationships between certified nurse-midwives and their patients lead to positive outcomes for mothers and their babies.

That, she said, could be a boon to the millions of women who live in poverty and who are more likely to have pre-term, low birthweight babies. “Nurse-midwives have access to women who are living in poor communities,” she explained. “If nurse-midwives are highly trusted, then the expectant mothers they care for may experience lower levels of prenatal stress and have better outcomes.”

In addition to her studies and her research, the NJNI Faculty Preparation Program ensures that LoGrippo is actively engaged in activities that advance her role in teaching and scholarship.  To that end, she helped found an organization to support doctoral nursing students at Seton Hall University. And she participated in a teaching practicum that helped teach an introductory online course for doctoral students on the philosophy of science at Rutgers University.

Now, she’s writing her dissertation proposal. She plans to graduate next year and launch the next phase of her career as a faculty member at a nursing school in New Jersey.

The scholarship was “a dream come true,” she told New Jersey legislators in 2009. It allowed her to advance her education, continue to support her family, better meet her caregiving responsibilities and position herself to get the job of her dreams.

It’s true on a deeper level as well. Becoming a nurse is a dream she had as a little girl, LoGrippo says, and it’s one shared by her mother, who had 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.”
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We Teach Nursing NJ Launches

What does being a member of the faculty at a school of nursing involve? What are the requirements to become a nurse faculty member in the Garden State? What are the benefits to this career path? How great is the need for nurse faculty?

New Jersey nurses considering this career option now have a new resource—the first of its kind in the state—to help them understand more about a career as a nurse faculty member. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation New Jersey Nursing Initiative (NJNI) this month launched “,” a website providing important resources and information about what a career as nurse faculty involves and the pathway to that career.

“The job market may not look bright in some industries, but that’s not the case for nurse faculty,” said Susan Bakewell-Sachs, PhD, RN, PNP-BC, program director for NJNI and interim provost of The College of New Jersey. “We have a tremendous long-term need for nurse faculty in New Jersey, and we hope this new website, ‘,’ will become a resource for all practicing and prospective nurses considering new careers.”

New Jersey has a staggering 10.5 percent vacancy rate for nurse faculty. If those positions are not filled, nursing schools may have to turn away prospective nursing students, which would exacerbate the shortage of nurses just as the state’s health care needs are growing. That shortage could have a significant negative effect on the health and health care of New Jersey. Many faculty at New Jersey nursing schools are approaching retirement, and there are not enough people in the pipeline to fill their positions, in part because few practicing nurses have the qualifications necessary to teach.  One hurdle is the education requirement— candidates for nurse faculty in New Jersey must hold at least a master’s degree.

“Highly qualified, well-prepared nurses are essential to our rapidly changing health care system. There’s no question that nurses with bachelor degrees or higher are in greater demand. NJNI is addressing the challenges many face in pursuing advanced degrees, and is encouraging others to consider the faculty path,” said Bakewell-Sachs.” provides information on what to expect as a nurse faculty member, as well as the education and skills necessary to pursue that career path. It also includes profiles of current nurse faculty and a list of nursing programs in each county in the state.
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Did You Know…?

NJNI’s blog, News & Notes on Nursing in NJ, is your source for nursing news in the state! Not only does the blog feature a weekly roundup of the top NJ nursing stories, we regularly feature new opportunities and events you won’t want to miss, and often publish guest posts from nursing leaders in the state. Have something you’d like to share on the blog?
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