A Call to Action in New Jersey

    • September 30, 2009

A September meeting of New Jersey health care executives and nursing experts focused on the state’s nursing shortage concluded with a commitment from state health leaders to work collaboratively and to seek nontraditional partnerships and support. The meeting was convened by the New Jersey Nursing Initiative, a five-year project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

The Shortage on the Horizon

More than 30 health care executives from across the state, representing hospitals, clinics, medical centers and health systems, participated in the unique meeting on September 18. In small group discussions, they drew on their own experiences with the nursing shortage in the state, and discussed innovative solutions to the problem.

Nearly half of the participants said they anticipated a nursing shortage at their institutions, citing the lack of sufficient nurse faculty to teach the next generation of nurses, and the fact that a large share of the nursing workforce is nearing retirement. A new concern is that in this economy, recent graduates are having a tougher time finding jobs. This could become a serious problem if it decreases the number of potential nursing students, at a time when more are needed.

Solutions on the Table

The executives had no shortage of ideas on how to address the problem. Their proposed solutions to the workforce problem included:

  • Creating opportunities for older nurses to become nurse faculty;
  • Helping younger nurses develop career paths;
  • Providing scholarships for nurses to acquire advanced degrees;
  • Introducing high school youth to nursing by giving them hands-on opportunities;
  • Creating joint appointments between schools of nursing and hospitals where nurses could serve as adjunct faculty;
  • Implementing technology that is standardized across institutions, and then incorporating training into nursing curricula statewide so that all nurses can have the necessary technological capabilities without on-the-job training; and
  • Creating partnerships with schools to grow nurse faculty internally.

Creating an Action Network

Susan Hassmiller, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., RWJF senior adviser for nursing, highlighted the importance of forging partnerships with businesses. She said such efforts are “crucial in ensuring that NJNI succeeds in making New Jersey a model state for nursing and nursing education.”

Bob Wise, president and CEO of Hunterdon Medical Center, echoed Hassmiller’s point, calling on health care executives to work to develop new relationships and partnerships with the business community in order to devise lasting solutions to the looming nurse workforce shortage.

Participants pledged to create an “action toolkit” to help others establish relationships with local businesses in their communities and help frame the conversation about the looming shortage. The toolkit will be available soon and will be posted online at www.NJNI.org, which also offers a wealth of information on the project.