State Senate Committee Hearing Highlights Efforts to
Avert Health Workforce Crisis, Challenges That Remain
TRENTON, N.J.—State legislators today heard that the New Jersey Nursing Initiative (NJNI) has made progress in addressing the state’s staggering 10.5 percent nursing faculty vacancy rate, but that more needs to be done to avert the projected shortage of more than 23,000 nurses in New Jersey in less than two decades. Health, business and academic leaders testified at a New Jersey Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee hearing, several years after NJNI’s sponsors—the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Foundation—announced the initiative at a hearing of the same committee.
“In 2009, when the New Jersey Nursing Initiative first launched, it was an unprecedented experiment in addressing the nurse faculty shortage in one state,” said John R. Lumpkin, MD, MPH, senior vice president and director of the Health Care Group at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “Today, three and a half years later, I am pleased to be able to report: We are making real progress.”
In that time, Lumpkin and other witnesses said, NJNI’s Faculty Preparation Program has supported 61 New Jersey Nursing Scholars who are pursuing (or have completed) master’s or doctoral degrees that qualify them for nurse faculty positions. NJNI developed the Nursing Academic Resource Center of New Jersey, an online tool for graduate-level nursing students; and supported the Nursing Centralized Application System, to streamline the nursing school application process for prospective students and monitor the availability of slots in nursing programs. NJNI also launched WeTeachNursingNJ.com, a website dedicated to nursing faculty career information.
In addition, NJNI is helping lead the New Jersey Action Coalition. It helps the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action implement recommendations from the Institute of Medicine’s landmark nursing report as part of a nationwide effort to transform nursing and the delivery of health care in America, by fully utilizing nurses and enhancing their skills and education.
Susan Bakewell-Sachs, PhD, RN, PNP-BC, program director of the New Jersey Nursing Initiative and interim provost of The College of New Jersey, also testified, pointing out NJNI’s role in supporting the Nursing Faculty Loan Redemption Program Act, which was signed into law in 2010. It provides student loan redemption in exchange for full-time employment in the state as a nurse faculty member. “We have made important progress toward addressing the nursing and nursing faculty shortage and we thank the Legislature, and in particular this committee, for your support in helping us avert a serious health care crisis,” Bakewell-Sachs said.
Jeffrey Scheininger, president of Flexline/U.S. Brass & Copper Corp. and board chair of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, told the committee that “the state’s business community has long understood that a shortage of nurses and nurse faculty has serious implications for the welfare of our employees, as well as the costs of running our enterprises. That is why the Chamber remains committed to the New Jersey Nursing Initiative.”
“Tens of thousands of business owners, like me, want to know that the health care system is up to the job,” Scheininger said. “That our employees and their families will have quality care when they or a family member is sick, and that the care that is available will make them well and let them get back to their jobs. We know that just as we form the bedrock of our state’s economy, nurses form the bedrock of the health care system.”
Colleen Manzetti, DNP, RN, CNE, CNLCP, an assistant professor at Monmouth University, shared her experience as a beneficiary of the state’s Nursing Faculty Loan Redemption Program, which provides a maximum benefit of $50,000 over five years. “The passion for teaching that nurse faculty members bring to their jobs is really what drives us, not the bottom line,” Manzetti said, citing the salary disparity between nurses in academia and nurses in the health care industry. “There is a great sense of accomplishment that comes with knowing that we improve the lives of patients, even when we’re not at their bedside in the hospital, because we give so many nurses the tools of caring they need. It is a privilege to teach, but financially, it is a sacrifice.”
The committee also heard from two New Jersey Nursing Scholars: Maria Torchia LoGrippo, MSN, RN, a doctoral student at Seton Hall University, and Marlin Gross, MSN, RN, who completed his master’s degree this year and is now an assistant professor at Cumberland County College. “I am well on the way to becoming a tenured nursing professor and the kind of academic nurse leader our nation needs to fix our health care system,” LoGrippo said. “I expect to spend the next several decades preparing the next generation of nurses and nurse faculty, who in turn will work to meet the health care needs of people in this state.”
“We need more highly educated nurses to play leading roles in discussions and debates about health care reform,” Gross said. “We need them to provide more complex care to an aging, and more complex, population of patients and to provide critically needed research into ways to improve health care. And we need them to fill faculty vacancies so we can curb a looming nursing shortage and help ensure that all people in our state, and in our country, have access to a highly skilled nurses when and where they need one.”
Current data show that the nursing population is aging, with only 8 percent of New Jersey nurses younger than 30. The average age of the state’s nurses is 51, and the average age of nurse faculty is 55. A recent study projects that by 2030, there will be a shortage of 23,358 nurses in New Jersey, indicating that NJNI’s work and similar efforts are crucial to ensuring that enough nurses can be trained to meet future health care needs in the Garden State.
NJNI has awarded $21.5 million to a group of institutions of higher education to support the New Jersey Nursing Scholars with full tuition and fees, a $50,000 annual stipend and a laptop computer. Last year, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reauthorized NJNI through 2016, funding scholarships for 10 additional New Jersey Nursing Scholars to pursue PhDs.
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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, measurable, and timely change. For 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 www.rwjf.org. Follow the Foundation on Twitter www.rwjf.org/twitter or Facebook www.rwjf.org/facebook.
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. The State Chamber’s charitable arm, the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Foundation, is dedicated to maintaining and improving the state’s high-quality workforce, and focuses on improving the workforce-readiness curriculum in public schools, increasing employment opportunities for qualified people with disabilities, and stemming the shortage of nurses and nursing facilities in New Jersey.