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Greater Chicago Works Together to Quell Impending RN Shortage

As she prepares aspiring nurses, Barbara Scott, RN, MSN, CNOR, instills in them the importance of passing on their knowledge to other students.

“We’re constantly educating,” says Scott, an instructor at the College of Nursing and Allied Health at the University of St. Francis in Joliet, Ill. “We’re constantly educating our patients and families. But there are some nurses who know in their hearts that educating the next generation of nurses is what they should do. I plant that seed in all my students.”

But Scott isn’t alone in her efforts to encourage future nurses to incorporate teaching into their careers. An emergence of public and private partnerships is under way between colleges, hospitals, and other organizations in hopes that increasing nurse educators will alleviate nursing shortages. A new report from the Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council predicts the Chicago area will need about 36,000 new nurses by 2020.

Mary Pat Olson, RN

The report discusses how public and private partnerships are addressing the nursing shortage. Partners include state and local government, the MCHC, healthcare providers, and leading educational institutions.

“In recent years, the northeastern region of Illinois has come together with public and private partners to address these issues,” says Mary Anne Kelly, vice president of human capital services for MCHC. “The issues that we’re focusing on are expanding the diversity of our applicant pool, increasing the capacity of our nursing schools, and increasing the number of graduates.”

According to the report, 38,415 qualified applicants were denied in 2007 by U.S. nursing schools, partly because of an insufficient supply of nurse educators. Contributing to this decline are rising numbers of instructors reaching retirement age and income gaps between academia and clinical or private sector jobs. Another factor is a requirement that nurses wishing to become clinical instructors must have an MSN.

Barbara Scott, RN

“It’s not as if they can just fill up a 400-seat lecture hall with a bunch of nurses,” says Genevieve Boesen, RN, BSN, MPH, executive director of the South Metropolitan Higher Education Consortium in University Park, Ill. “They all have to do clinical rotations, and the number of people who can be in those clinical rotations is tightly controlled for the safety of the patient.”

Boesen’s organization teamed with MCHC to spearhead a two-day clinical nurse faculty academy. Targeted toward clinical care nurses who are interested in teaching, the first academy took place in August at Prairie State College in Chicago Heights, Ill. Through the program, nurses learn firsthand about the nuts and bolts of becoming clinical instructors. “The people who attend the academy have made a commitment to teach at one of our nursing schools,” Boesen says. “By the end of the academy, participants have received instruction and practical advice on how to teach.”

Other emerging partnerships involve hospitals and schools working to share staff. Many of these programs allow nurses to remain at the bedside while teaching as adjunct instructors.

Genevieve Boesen, RN

Scott, who attended the clinical nurse faculty academy as a refresher course, was an adjunct instructor before taking a full-time teaching position. She continues to work part time as an OR staff nurse at Provena St. Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, Ill. “The partnership between the educational field and the fields that benefit from our education certainly is needed,” Scott says. “That partnership is very valuable. They can tell us their needs, and we can try to help them meet those needs through our educational process.”

To Kelly, the faculty academy is a perfect model of how such partnerships can be successful in easing the nursing shortage. With a second forum planned for December at Wright College in Chicago, the academy has transformed more than 30 master’s-prepared nurses into part-time educators.

“It’s a great example of education, services, and government working together to increase the number of faculty, which increases the number of graduates,” Kelly says.

Among other top partnerships is the Illinois Center for Nursing. The center works with industry professionals and nursing schools to focus on everything from education and training to recruitment and retention.

“Once you’ve overcome the hurdle of getting everyone talking about this common issue, you’ve overcome the primary challenge,” Kelly says.

But retaining skilled nurses is equally as important as recruiting educators. A nurse residency program through University Health System Consortium in Oak Brook, Ill., is working to decrease turnover rates. The program provides mentoring and support to first-year nurses, who are the most at risk of leaving the field for other jobs.

“We don’t want anybody to leave nursing,” says Cathleen Krsek, RN, MSN, MBA, director of operational benchmarking and nursing leadership for the University HealthSystem Consortium. “We want to keep as many of them as we can at the bedside.”

Another advantage to the residency program is the relationships that have developed between hospitals and nursing schools, Krsek says. “We’re developing partnerships where some advanced practice nurses are spending some time serving as clinical faculty,” she says.

Programs geared toward minority and bilingual students also can help ease the nursing shortage. The Chicago Bilingual Nurse Consortium assists nurses who were educated outside the U.S. but are not licensed as RNs. Often unemployed or underemployed, the nurses receive help with their English skills and other necessary requirements to pursue their careers.

Carreras en Salud (Careers in Health), a partnership program between Wright College and Humboldt Park Vocational Education Center, is increasing capacity for bilingual nurse students by adding LPN cohort classes.

“It’s imperative for us to expand the diversity of our workforce,” Kelly says. “There are good jobs, and we want to make sure they’re available to everybody who is looking.”

Carreras en Salud is one of several health-related partnerships that received funding through a $2.4 million Critical Skills Shortage Initiative grant. The grant was issued through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. Other successful partnerships include the Chicago Public School Practical Nursing Program, in which 80% of participating graduates have become RNs.

Although every effort to address nursing shortages is necessary, many industry experts believe programs placing more faculty in classrooms and clinical settings will continue to be crucial. “We’re lucky that we have qualified applicants,” says Mary Pat Olson, RN, MPH, director of workforce development at MCHC. “But we don’t have the capacity to teach the number of people who are qualified to be in nursing school.”

By | 2020-04-15T15:08:20-04:00 February 9th, 2009|Categories: Greater Chicago, Regional|0 Comments

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