Improving Nurse Education Matters to Businesses, Too

Sep 17, 2012, 10:21 AM, Posted by

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Human Capital Blog is asking diverse experts: What is and isn’t working in health professions education today, and what changes are needed to prepare a high-functioning health and health care workforce that can meet the country’s current and emerging needs? Today’s post is by Dana Egreczky, BS, MBA, senior vice president of workforce development at the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, and president and CEO of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Foundation.


As head of workforce development at the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, I’ve seen a vast shift in the education levels employers expect in their employees, and nurses are no exception. It makes good sense: Nurses have more responsibilities than ever, and are caring for an increasing, and increasingly complex, patient population. They need to understand vast amounts of medical knowledge and be able to make quick, sound decisions that affect the lives of their patients.


Certainly, all nurses play a valuable role in our health care system, but we need more nurses with baccalaureate degrees and higher to meet increasing demands and to provide higher quality, more complex care. Studies show a clear link between nurse education levels and patient outcomes.

We also need more nurses with advanced degrees to fill faculty vacancies. Our population is aging, and in increasing need of nursing services, but there aren’t enough nurse educators to train the next generation of nurses. And that does not bode well for our health—or our economy.

At the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Foundation, we are doing our part to solve this problem. We have teamed up with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to create the New Jersey Nursing Initiative (NJNI), which is working to transform nursing education and address the nurse faculty shortage in our state.

To do that, NJNI is providing nursing students with scholarships to earn graduate or doctoral degrees, which will prepare them to fill faculty vacancies and expand capacity at our state’s nursing schools. The NJNI has also created collaborative learning communities, which provide the scholars in our program with opportunities to learn about approaches to teaching and other topics from leading national experts and each other. And it has helped successfully educate lawmakers about the need to pass a loan forgiveness program.

NJNI’s ultimate goal is to create a more highly trained, better educated nursing workforce in New Jersey so a highly skilled, well-educated nurse will be there for us when and where we need one. That’s good for our people, and it’s good for our businesses too.

As president of the Chamber Foundation, I run a small business, I know that one of our greatest challenges is covering the rising cost of employee health care insurance plans. A more highly skilled, better-educated nursing workforce will help keep those health care costs down and, at the same time, improve the quality of our employees’ lives.

When it comes to health care, what’s true for us is true for all businesses. We need more highly educated nurses for the health of our people, and for our economy, too.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.