Trinitas Regional Medical Center in Elizabeth, N.J., is one of three academic medical centers in the country to receive the new National League for Nursing Centers of Excellence designation, which spotlights the critical importance of creating partnerships for the advancement of nursing education.
The NLN recently expanded the recognition in nursing education with the category “Creating Workplace Environments that Promote Academic Progression of Nurses.”
The two other healthcare facilities to receive the designation are North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, New Hyde Park, N.Y., and the University of Kansas Hospital, Kansas City.
“We started our journey to advance nursing education among staff about six to eight years ago when we partnered with the College of Saint Elizabeth to bring their BSN program onsite,” said Mary McTigue, RNC, MA, CENP, vice president, patient care services. “Sixty staff members applied to our first onsite BSN program, and because of the generosity of our benefactors and our foundation, we were able to pay for their full tuition throughout the degree program.”
Since that time, Trinitas and the College of Saint Elizabeth in Convent Station have created an onsite MSN program at Trinitas and have had more than 140 students enroll in one or both programs. More than 60% of students represent diverse ethnic backgrounds, which reflects the ethnicity of the community and the patient population, according to McTigue.
The Trinitas culture of education has had a snowball effect among staff members, according to Tim Clyne, RN, BA, nurse manager, oncology/geriatrics.
“Pursuing educational advancement is a real and regular conversation at work,” Clyne said.
Initially receiving a degree in psychology and disabilities studies, Clyne chose to go back to nursing school. He said education has given him new career opportunities. Clyne became involved in educating other nurses on the new EMR system at the facility, and he is completing undergraduate transition courses and pursuing his masters degree at Trinitas.
“The graduate program has opened up a whole other world to me,” said Geraldine Cruz, RN, MSN, an ICU staff nurse. She pursued a specialization in end-of-life and palliative care in school. Through the support of the hospital, Cruz completed the national End-of Life Nursing Education Consortium Train-the-Trainer course and presented the program to staff nurses at Trinitas and other local facilities.
Maryse Annulysse, RN, MSN, ICU staff nurse, and Carolyn Dickerson, RN, MSN, nurse manager, PACU/same day surgery, are graduates of both the BSN and MSN programs. Dickerson said she never thought she would go back to school and is grateful to the dean and coworkers who encouraged her to return.
“It has given me something that I didn’t initially know that I wanted,” Dickerson said.
Because of her love for teaching, Annulysse precepts new nurses at the facility and serves as an adjunct faculty member at the school.
In both programs, the students attend school part-time while working at Trinitas full-time, and the hospital offers full scholarships, tuition reimbursement and scheduling support. There are onsite library services and an onsite program coordinator, who provides registration and course guidance. Trinitas nurse leaders frequently serve as mentors for student projects.
Clare Cruz, RN, MSN, nursing clinical informatics coordinator, was a member of the first MSN cohort. She credits RN colleagues’ camaraderie, encouragement and moral support as essential components to an easier transition back to school and to successful academic progression.
“Our culture of education is the key to our success, and what’s most important of all is that we have come full circle,” McTigue said. “Nurses are leaders at the bedside, they are preceptors and mentors, and they are actively involved in performance improvement programs, research projects and in our practice councils. Through academic progression, we see how we have influenced and improved our patients’ care.”