In building a badly needed network of highly skilled nurse faculty, the New Jersey Nursing Initiative (NJNI) is creating opportunities for nurses to build solid academic careers while at the same time addressing the state’s growing health care needs. NJNI is a unique collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Foundation. In late October, its second and final cohort of New Jersey Nursing Scholars convened in Princeton for NJNI’s second annual meeting, “Nursing Leadership: Education, Practice and Policy.” They joined the first cohort of scholars at RWJF for three days to network and learn about new developments in nursing.
NJNI is working to ensure that New Jersey has the well prepared, diverse nurse faculty needed to educate nurses to meet the demand for health and health care in the 21st century. The program is providing $13.5 million over the next five years to New Jersey’s master’s and doctoral level nursing programs and collaboratives. Through its New Jersey Nursing Scholars, the Initiative will produce at least 46 new nurse faculty.
“You don’t know how exciting it is for me to see all of you here,” former New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean, who chairs the RWJF Board of Trustees, told the scholars at the meeting. “You are the future. What you do with your degrees will be wonderful for nursing.”
Spotlight on Nurse Faculty Careers
During the meeting, scholars heard from nursing legend Angela Barron McBride, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., distinguished professor-dean emerita at the Indiana University School of Nursing. McBride delivered the keynote address, “Orchestrating a Faculty Career.”
“A career means you are not doing, in every decade, the same thing. You keep evolving,” she said. In order to create rich academic collaborations, she advised scholars to build on their strengths and make friends with those who have skills different from their own.
McBride gave scholars an overview of an academic career, highlighting key transition moments, the mentoring needed at each stage, and the importance of sustaining optimism throughout. She explained career phases, from knowledge development and creating a program of scholarship, to the final stage when you are a “gadfly or wise person.” She wished each scholar a “happy career.” Each scholar will receive a copy of her new book, The Growth and Development of Nurse Leaders.
Building Relationships with Mentors, Experts
In addition to expert advice, the annual meeting offered scholars an introduction to RWJF and the NJNI, and provided a chance to network with peers, faculty and experts in the nursing field and other professions.
First-year scholar Grace Qarmout, B.S.N., R.N., who is pursuing a master’s degree in nursing at Fairleigh Dickinson University, appreciated the opportunity to get to know her fellow scholars as well as faculty from other nursing schools. “It made the program more exciting to see the collaborative that we have here and to know the other people that I’m working with,” she said.
Because this was NJNI’s first meeting to include more than one cohort of scholars who are at different stages of their education, breakout sessions covered a wide variety of topics. The scholars heard from experts about quality and safety, negotiating a clinical role, and establishing a dedicated education unit. Those in the second year of their post-graduate education attended sessions at which mentors discussed tenure tracks, research and publication, and transitioning from being a student to being faculty.
First cohort scholar Robert Scoloveno, M.S., R.N., who is pursuing a doctoral degree in nursing at Rutgers, said he felt “reinvigorated” after the meeting. To hear from experts in the field and learn how to become a better educator “makes me feel like there’s great potential not only as a nurse, but as a nurse educator,” he said.
NJNI provides each scholar with a scholarship covering tuition and fees, a $50,000 per year stipend to cover living expenses for the two to four years spent as full-time students, and a laptop computer. Scholars also receive mentoring from nursing leaders from across the country to help them complete their graduate studies. Upon graduation, scholars have the opportunity to receive financial incentives if they become faculty members at schools of nursing in the state.
A Call for Nurse Leadership
A major focus of the meeting was policy issues related to nursing. The meeting came just weeks after the Institute of Medicine, with support from RWJF, released its groundbreaking report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health. The culmination of two years of extensive research, the report calls for nurses to play an increased role in the health care system.
“This report was written for you. It really is an opportunity for nurses to lead the transformation of our system,” said Susan Hassmiller, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., RWJF’s senior advisor for nursing. “You are part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ambassador team. Reach out and educate policy-makers and others on the report’s findings.”
Hassmiller encouraged the scholars and their mentors to host “watch parties” for the report’s launch summit, which will be broadcast online from Washington D.C. on November 30 and December 1.
Ellen-Marie Whelan, Ph.D., R.N., senior policy analyst at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, briefed the scholars on the health care reform law and its implications for nursing. Whelan is an alumna of the RWJF Health Policy Fellows program (2003-2004), where she spent a year working in the office of then-Senator Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota.
The scholars also heard from experts who encouraged them to help elevate nursing’s role in public policy, to become advocates in their communities, and to talk to diverse audiences about nursing and issues that affect quality of care.
"This has given me so much to think about,” said Maryann Magloire-Wilson, B.A., R.N., a member of NJNI’s first cohort who is pursuing a master’s degree in nursing at The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. “I never really thought of myself in that regard, in policy, in government… I feel like I can do more than I probably thought that I could.”
“Each of us is a leader. We’re not to wait for someone else to lead,” NJNI Program Director Susan Bakewell-Sachs, Ph.D., R.N., P.N.P.-B.C., said at the close of the meeting. “I’m newly inspired to step up again... This is a rare opportunity in time. This is a momentous opportunity in time. Aren’t we lucky to be here?”