N. J. nurses urged to increase education in future

David Knowlton spoke about the importance of nurses expanding the extent of their licenses. (Christopher Lombardi / Staff Photographer)

By Alexandria Amendolia
Correspondent

On Friday, Feb. 25, in the Mildred and Ernest E. Mayo Concert Hall, nursing students at the College had the opportunity to learn more about what they need to do in order to better their future in the field.

A panel of officials in the healthcare profession discussed the latest report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) pertaining to nurses and how the profession can be changed for the better. Students of the College’s School of Nursing and Health and Exercise Science are also working toward a better program for the future with the New Jersey Regional Action Coalition by gaining awareness of the Initiative on the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action.

“It’s really an extrodinary effort that we’re doing,” Susan Hassmiller, senior advisor for nursing for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said in her presentation on Friday. “Nurses should be used more effectively and efficiently.”

The presentation featured Hassmiller as the keynote speaker and a panel of healthcare professionals that presented the changes made by the report in October.

“Every single change that we champion at the Institute cannot be done without nurses,” said David Knowlton, president and CEO of New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute.

Though not a nurse himself, Knowlton urged all nurses to “aggressively expand” the extent of their licenses. Knowlton noted that he spoke on behalf of nurses and those who are an “accomplice to a miracle.”

The remainder of the panel was comprised of Edna Cadmus, a clinical professor and director of the Doctor of Nursing Practice program at Rutgers University, and Mary Ann Christopher, the president of the Visiting Nurses Association of Central Jersey. They discussed the four pillars of change, which focused on scope of practice, education, system redesign, workforce planning and policy making.

“The answers live with the people who do this every day,” Christopher said. She expanded on the need for interprofessional collaboration and nurses practicing to the full level of their education and training. Christopher also discussed areas that nurses and programs need to improve: education, methods for data collection and analysis and the enablement of nurses to lead change.

“Nurses contribute as essential partners,” Hassmiller said about the need for interprofessional collaboration. “No one discipline can do this by themselves.”

A large majority of the presentation focused on the critical importance of education, as nurses are the largest segment of the healthcare workforce, and therefore the “interface between the system and the patient,” according to Knowlton.

In New Jersey, according to Hassmiller, a mere eight percent of nurses are under age 30, and only 47 percent of nurses have their Bachelor of Sciences in Nursing degree; the goal of the IOM Report is to increase this statistic to 80 percent by 2020.

According to Hassmiller, the “competencies to practice” are not learned at the associate level, and therefore nurses with a higher education are imperative.

Some nursing students in the audience found the presentation of particular interest.

“It was really great to see people taking a step forward to taking action,” sophomore nursing major Susan Moraca said. “We are always in the library or the classroom reading the books. (This presentation) gives us a better understanding for what we’re working for.”

Hassmiller described how to get involved in the campaign.

“We’re using social media,” Hassmiller said. “What isn’t on Facebook nowadays?”

In a final effort to reach out to the audience, Hassmiller stressed once more the importance of this change.

“Get involved,” Hassmiller said. “This is your future — whether you’re a nurse, or you’ll be serviced by a nurse, or you’ll work with nurses — this is your future.”