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U.Va. School Of Nursing To Lead Local Collaboration Aimed At Increasing, Diversifying Pool Of Nurses

October 9, 2003 -- Virginia is currently experiencing a 10 percent shortage in its nursing workforce, and that figure is expected to rise to 36.4 percent by 2020, threatening access to health care across the Commonwealth, according to figures compiled by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The University of Virginia has received a three-year, $651,153 federal grant to fund a collaborative, two-pronged effort aimed at deepening and diversifying the local pool of professional nurses. The funding, from the Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration, will go mostly toward increasing faculty resources at both the U.Va. School of Nursing and Piedmont Virginia Community College.

Local hospitals, including the U.Va. Medical Center and Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, the Augusta Medical Center in Fishersville and Western State Hospital in Staunton, will also provide resources to support the clinical training of additional nursing students.

“This is the first time that a partnership in problem-solving for nursing has included the U.Va. Medical Center plus the regional health-care institutions that are the consumers of nursing education,” said Judith K. Sands, associate professor of nursing at U.Va. and project director for the grant. “It is also the first time that all institutions have volunteered to help solve education’s very real dilemmas in being able to serve a larger group of well-qualified students by supporting faculty positions.”

The grant seeks to increase the number of professional-level nurses through two paths: encouraging certified nurse aides, or CNAs, to seek additional training through courses at PVCC, which will offer more night and weekend options; and increasing admission to a two-year, second-degree program in U.Va.’s School of Nursing for those who have received bachelor’s degrees in other academic disciplines.

Graduates of both PVCC’s training and the U.Va. Nursing School are qualified to sit for a licensing examination to become registered nurses.

CNA positions are considered entry-level on this nursing career ladder. Most CNAs have a high school diploma and received their training either in vocational education programs or through programs offered by some hospitals. The grant seeks to identify the most promising CNAs in the local community, encourage them to enter PVCC’s nursing program, and offer them mentorship.

“There are people in the CNA pool who, for whatever reason, have potential that has not been tapped,” Sands said.

“We hope the program will help us achieve some diversity in the nursing profession,” said Amy Black, vice president and chief nursing executive at Martha Jefferson Hospital. “I’m really excited about the career counseling aspect of it. It should help us tap into some populations that don’t traditionally think of nursing as a career.”

PVCC’s program, which has traditionally required a full-time, daytime commitment, will offer new night and weekend options to allow students to continue working while pursuing an associate’s degree. The expansion will allow Piedmont to graduate an additional 20 to 30 registered nurses each year, most of whom will remain in the local community, said PVCC President Frank Friedman.

“This grant is another example of how our community benefits from the tremendous partnership between PVCC and U.Va.,” Friedman said.

Sands noted that minorities constitute 38 percent of CNAs, and said she hopes that many will take advantage of a chance to move up the career ladder. Both locally and nationally, the number of minorities “drops off precipitously” at the higher rungs of nursing’s professional ladder.

The second thrust of the program is boosting the U.Va. School of Nursing’s annual enrollment of second-degree candidates from 32 to 48. The Nursing School admitted an additional eight such students this fall in anticipation of the new funding.

“We at the University of Virginia School of Nursing felt an obligation to work with our education and health-care partners to increase the number of new nurses being prepared,” said Jeannette Lancaster, dean of the School of Nursing. “The enthusiastic cooperation demonstrated in the development of this grant by the Medical Center, Martha Jefferson Hospital and Piedmont Virginia Community College was absolutely inspiring. It is a real pleasure to work with colleagues who can come together and work hard and fast to garner funds to help meet a community need.”

This is the 13th year that the Nursing School has offered a two-year degree program to students who have already earned bachelor’s degrees in other fields. Besides the expanded enrollment, the grant will allow the school to rearrange its curriculum to make it more attractive for working students, although it will still require a full-time commitment.

The second-degree students are generally more mature than those who enter the school as first-year students, Sands said, and a higher percentage remain in the community after earning their Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing degrees.

Once the initial federal grant establishes the new programs, Sands hopes the local hospitals will continue to sustain it.
Pamela F. Cipriano, chief clinical officer and chief nursing officer at the U.Va. Health System, said the program is an important solution to a major problem.

“It is our goal to be leaders in addressing the nursing shortage that faces the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Cipriano said. “The U.Va. Medical Center is proud to be a part of this effort to prepare more registered nurses for the future. By pooling our talent and resources, we can create and model solutions to the nursing shortage not only for the Commonwealth, but also for the nation.”

Contact Dan Heuchert, (434) 924-7676

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services


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