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More faculty key component to easing shortages, proponents say

Pilot program, salary increases have nursing advocates excited

Nurses make up 31% of professionals providing healthcare services and Mississippi has a serious shortage of registered nurses. In October 2006, the Mississippi Office of Nursing Workforce (ONW) conducted its ninth annual survey of hospitals. The hospital nursing vacancy rate increased to 9.1% in 2006 from 7.9% in 2005. Several professional groups are working to solve this problem, and they say a key component is increasing the number of nursing faculty.

The state’s schools of nursing anticipate a 35.5% faculty vacancy rate by the end of the 2008-09 school year, according to the Southern Regional Education Board on Collegiate Education for Nursing survey of schools of nursing.

Two pilot programs and salary increases for nursing faculty are on the horizon.

One program will kick off by August of this year in the Jackson area and then spread to other parts of the state. Funded by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Mississippi Hospital Association Foundation and the Office of Nursing Workforce partnered to develop a program for registered nurses to become educators. Working together the schools and hospitals will develop the program’s curriculum.

“This pilot program will allow service and education to partner and develop adjunct faculty roles,” said Debbie Logan, an RN and healthcare workforce specialist for ONW. “Although we’ve only just taken the first steps, the project shows great promise in strengthening the nursing workforce here in Mississippi. Initial research already shows the nursing community is eager to embrace these new initiatives. Hospital nurse executives are interested in providing adjunct faculty, classroom space and financial support. Also, most nurses are interested in obtaining an advanced degree which would allow them to teach.”

This partnership is part of a national program, known as Partners Investing in Nursing’s Future, to encourage local foundations to act as catalysts in developing grassroots strategies to address the nursing shortage.

Logan points out that the quality of healthcare is currently threatened by the ever-increasing shortage of trained and experienced registered nurses. “A recent report by the Trust for America’s Health indicates that 40 states face both a current and future shortage of nurses,” she said. “Mississippi is one of those states.”

She and Wanda Jones, executive director of ONW, are excited to find that a lot of nurses want to get into this program and become faculty. Both think the program will be successful.

“There’s a keen interest,” Jones said. “The real beauty is they can teach part time and still work in hospitals. We’re honored to receive this grant. It’s great for our state.”

Effective July 1, the nursing faculty of universities and community colleges will receive salary increases of $6,000 as passed by the Legislature this year. It’s the second year for an increase in this amount. Ricki Garrett, executive director of the Mississippi Nurses Association, thinks it will help recruit and retain nursing faculty.

“We lobbied very hard to get the increase and we’re very happy it passed,” she said. “It’s already making an impact. Now we will have more capacity for nursing schools to include more students. We turn away 2,300 students each year for lack of enough faculty. It’s very frustrating and that’s why we’re working so hard.”

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

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