Nursing Leaders Discuss Strategies for Enhancing the Nursing Workforce

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Washington, DC – Educating a nursing workforce that will meet community and health care employer needs was the focus of conversations among nursing deans at the Urban Universities for HEALTH summer meeting in Washington, DC last month.  Participating deans developed strategies for increasing the number and diversity of bachelor’s educated nurses, including accelerated, competency-based programs for returning veterans with field health experience, and “holistic admission” practices for enrolling students who will both succeed academically and in the workforce after graduation.


The June 23 sessions began with a presentation by Dean Mary Jane Hamilton from the College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Texas A&M University Corpus Christi. Dr. Hamilton shared outcomes from the eLine Military (ELM) Program, a successful, competency-based, online Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program targeting veterans with prior medical experience.  The program boasts a retention rate above 80 percent, and 60 percent of enrolled students are from underrepresented minority groups. After pre-requisites are completed, veteran students take an average of 18 months to complete the BSN degree.

The BSN is rapidly becoming the minimum standard among health care employers, with hospitals much more likely to hire a nurse with a BSN than an associate’s degree.  The BSN is also a stepping stone to more advanced careers in nursing, including faculty positions. Nursing schools urgently need new faculty members in order to expand their enrollments to address the nationwide nursing shortage.

Although the ELM program receives many inquiries from out-of-state students, it is limited to Texas due to state nursing board requirements. After Dr. Hamilton’s presentation, participants discussed the feasibility of bringing this successful program to scale at universities in other states, and what would be involved to transition the existing BSN curriculum to an online and competency-based curriculum.

Topics discussed included:

Click here to access a summary of the discussion.

Over lunch, Dr. Greer Glazer, Dean of the University of Cincinnati College of Nursing, presented preliminary results from APLU/USU’s survey of admissions in the health professions. The survey sought to evaluate how many schools are using holistic admission as a strategy for increasing diversity and student success, as well as the impact of holistic admission practices on student outcomes. Nursing deans then discussed the results in teams, and identified potential solutions to common barriers associated with adopting the practice in nursing.

Both sessions highlighted the need to increase diversity within the nursing profession and graduate nurses who are better prepared to meet changing workforce demands. But nursing schools often don’t have good mechanisms for understanding what health employers need. “We need to look at employer satisfaction and use that as the measure by which we evaluate nursing graduates’ success,” one participant proposed. Deans agreed upon the need for more high-quality data in order to identify the determinants of success in nursing and better serve under-resourced communities.

Results from discussions with nursing deans will be used to inform the development and publication of a final report, expected Fall 2014.



About Urban Universities for HEALTH

Urban Universities for HEALTH (Health Equity through Alignment, Leadership and Transformation of the Health Workforce) is a partnership effort of the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU)/Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and the NIH National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD). The project aims to address the severe shortage of qualified health professionals in underserved areas by leveraging the power of urban universities to enhance and expand a culturally sensitive, diverse, and prepared health workforce.