Educating More RNs on Nights and Weekends in New Jersey
Middlesex County College and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey launched an evening/weekend program that increased enrollment in their joint nursing program by 50 percent.
- The evening/weekend program increased the enrollment of nursing students at Middlesex County College from 40 to 60 every year from 2002 to 2004.
- Forty-three students graduated from the program during the grant period and all but one passed state licensing exams to become registered nurses.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) supported this project with a grant of $425,827 from April 2002 through April 2006.
According to forecasts by the New Jersey site of Colleagues in Caring, a national program RWJF designed to increase nursing capacity, New Jersey was expected to have 18 percent fewer registered nurses than it needed by 2006.
Since 1990, approximately 40 nursing students had enrolled every year in a nursing program run jointly by Middlesex County College and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ). The program was offered on the Middlesex campus, with Middlesex faculty providing general education courses and UMDNJ faculty providing the nurse training. However, the evening and weekend component of the program was discontinued in 1997, primarily because of faculty shortages, and the number of qualified applicants to the day program far exceeded available slots.
Middlesex County College pursued a number of approaches to address the nursing shortages in the state. In 2002, Colleagues in Caring awarded the college a $15,000 grant to develop a bridge course to help licensed practical nurses become registered nurses. Grants from Johnson & Johnson and the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in 2003 and 2004 allowed Middlesex to expand its day nursing program.
The Middlesex County College Foundation raises funds to expand the educational opportunities available to qualified students.
RWJF funds a limited number of local institutions and projects in the New Brunswick area of New Jersey and throughout New Jersey, its home state, to honor the legacy of its founder and to recognize its special responsibilities to the community in which it is located.
Among its efforts to address the nursing shortage nationally, RWJF funded Ladders in Nursing Careers, a career advancement and health care workforce education program that operated in eight states from 1992 to 1997. See Grant Results on the program.
It also funded Colleagues in Caring: Regional Collaboratives for Nursing Work Force Development. The program supported 23 statewide and multicounty consortiums or collaboratives that worked on a regional basis to:
- Give nurses greater educational and career mobility.
- Align the supply of nurses more closely with marketplace demand.
- Develop programs to recruit and retain nurses.
- Affect public policy on nursing education and workforce issues.
It ran from 1994 to 2003. See Grant Results for more information.
Between 2002 and 2006, Middlesex County College and UMDNJ reinstated their two-year, evening/weekend nursing education program. The goal was for students to earn an Associate in Science degree in nursing and then to take a state licensing exam to become a registered nurse. Program planners expected that many of the students would also be working full time and would require tutoring and other personal attention.
According to a report to RWJF:
- The evening/weekend program increased the enrollment of nursing students at Middlesex County College from 40 to 60 every year from 2002 through 2004. Retention rates were low in the first year, partly because many students were trying to complete non-nursing course requirements while also taking nursing courses. In 2003, Middlesex added a requirement that students participating in the evening/weekend program first complete all but seven of their non-nursing courses, which "significantly" increased the retention rates for subsequent classes.
- Forty-three students graduated from the program (10 in 2004, 16 in 2005 and 17 in 2006). All but one of those students passed a state licensing exam - 40 in New Jersey and two elsewhere - to become registered nurses.
- Middlesex County College added academic and counseling support services. Some of these services were targeted specifically at the evening/weekend nursing students while others were more widely available to students needing extra support:
- Three faculty members were designated "academic support counselors" and provided tutoring to evening/weekend nursing students, as did a peer mentor. A teaching assistant provided tutoring to any student enrolled in a health services program.
- Through a grant from the National Student Nurses' Association, Middlesex hired a student learning assistant six hours a week to provide additional tutoring and support to nursing students.
- Nursing faculty provided weekly vocational and academic counseling to potential applicants who required enrichment courses before applying to the nursing program.
- Nursing faculty created two new online courses. "Principles and Practice of Health Promotion" and "Family Health Across the Life Span" were available both to Middlesex nursing students and to nursing programs at other schools.
- Develop strategies to enhance program retention. As a result of the poor retention in the program's first year, in 2003, Middlesex added the requirement that participating students first complete all but seven of their non-nursing courses. (Project Director/Kozlowski)
- Seek adequate resources so that new programs are self-sustaining. Because this grant did not provide sufficient funds for faculty salary increases, the participating institutions had to make up the shortfall. (Project Director/Kozlowski)
- Prepare for nursing faculty shortages. The limited supply of experienced nurse educators forced the program to hire instructors with little or no experience. "Novice educators need considerable faculty development," commented the project director. (Project Director/Kozlowski)
AFTER THE GRANT
The evening/weekend nursing program concluded at the end of the grant period.
UMDNJ will continue to provide faculty for 40 students in the day program until Middlesex County College finalizes a new partnership for the nursing initiative with Raritan Bay Medical Center. Once that partnership is in place, the evening/weekend program is expected to resume, admitting students again in 2010.
GRANT DETAILS & CONTACT INFORMATION
Expanding a Nursing Education Program
Middlesex County College Foundation (Edison, NJ)
Dates: April 2002 to April 2006
Dawn Kozlowski, Ph.D., R.N.
Report prepared by: Paul Jablow
Reviewed by: Karyn Feiden
Reviewed by: Molly McKaughan
Program Officer: Marco Navarro