Yes, I CARE!

Two ICAN nurse volunteers teach young students about nursing as a career at Sandman Elementary School in Cape May, New Jersey

Nurses in New Jersey care so much about nursing that they are spreading the word about the profession and about health care. In the “I Care About Nursing” (ICAN) program, nurses educate the community about nursing career opportunities and about health literacy. The project also offers mentoring and tutoring to pre-nursing candidates and to nurses throughout their careers. Now, because of the energy and commitment of so many nurses, ICAN is about to go statewide.

A program in action
Nurse volunteers drive this program to fuel and advance the nursing workforce, according to Mary Jean Burke, RN, BSN, MS, BC, director, Nursing Innovation and Outcomes, AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, Atlantic City, New Jersey. She is also a consultant for the New Jersey Collaborating Center for Nursing at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Newark, New Jersey.

ICAN nurses volunteer for school activities, mentoring and tutoring, career fair and community event participation, and behind-the-scenes support. ICAN provides volunteers with age-appropriate and knowledge-appropriate materials, scripts, guides, and training. These materials provide tremendous support to volunteers — when they encourage children and adults to consider nursing and when they encourage those in the profession to go further in their careers.

Once upon a time
In 2004, Burke and a part-time program outreach coordinator began to present the idea of nursing as a career at schools and summer camps. As project pioneers, they did not have formal materials or ready-made programs — they hadn’t even branded the ICAN program.

Among other things, Burke built the effort’s website (, and the outreach coordinator continued to go out into the community. One of their first presentations to a group of elementary students was a puppet show, in a homemade, portable, plastic pipe puppet theater. “During the summer of 2004, we began presenting our program, and during that time we reached more than 600 children,” Burke says. Later that year, Burke gave the project the ICAN name.

And the story continues
By the second year, ICAN’s community efforts touched another 4,400 children and adults. “We worked with AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center nurse externs during two summers, and they shared their enthusiasm for nursing with the community. These nurse externs took the experiences back to their schools of nursing,” Burke says. “As a result, we had more than 4,000 web hits and more than 60 ICAN nurse volunteers who shared their zest and passion for nursing in avenues that they had never imagined.”

To empower volunteers, Burke and colleagues created PowerPoint presentations, Jeopardy-like computer games, and other portable games, such as “Nursing is My Bag” and “Tools of the Trade,” just to name a few. “We also learned about mentoring through formal continuing education sessions and began a pre-licensure mentoring and tutoring program,” Burke says.

Mary Jean Burke, RN

The program takes off
ICAN has increased the number of joint appointments and nursing seats in Rutgers’ nursing programs. ICAN efforts also resulted in a month-long “appreciation of nurses” marketing blitz, supported by a local radio station, vendors, healthcare providers, and the community. These positive results allow ICAN’s fundraising dollars to be used for nursing scholarships, Burke adds.

ICAN is now under the oversight of the New Jersey Collaborating Center for Nursing (NJCCN), Rutgers College of Nursing, and its executive director, Geri L. Dickson, RN, PhD. She says the statewide ICAN program continues to address the nursing shortage by training enthusiastic nurse volunteers who, in turn, educate and recruit the next generation of nurses.

Geri Dickson, RN

It grows and grows
“Currently, we are forming a statewide collaborative to regionalize ICAN groups,” Burke says. “We are beginning with a focus on younger children who may become interested in nursing and how they might prepare for an education in nursing.”
“At the same time, we are addressing the increasing faculty shortage so that we will have well-prepared nurse faculty to educate our next generation of nurses,” Dickson says.

Nurses who wish to become part of the ICAN team must complete an online orientation for continuing education credit. The NJCCN hosts the program and will provide the orientation, record the activities, conduct an evaluation, and actively support volunteers.

Dickson says that any nurse volunteer is guaranteed to receive a great deal of personal satisfaction when joining this group and spreading the word about the profession.

Editor’s note: For more information about ICAN or to become a volunteer, contact the NJCCN at

By | 2020-04-15T15:39:36-04:00 February 11th, 2008|Categories: New York/New Jersey Metro, Regional|0 Comments

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