UB Effort to Address Chronic Nursing Shortage

By Lois Baker

Release Date: July 14, 2006

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- An innovative accelerated bachelor's-degree program in the University at Buffalo School of Nursing designed to address the chronic nursing shortage will expand and focus on meeting the needs of underserved urban and rural areas under a three-year, $1.36 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Jean Brown, Ph.D., associate dean for academic affairs in the UB nursing school, is principal investigator on the new grant.

The Accelerated BS Program allows persons who hold a bachelor's degree in another field to receive a bachelor's of science in nursing in 12 months. Nearly 40 enrollees already have completed the program since it was introduced three years ago, with an additional 18 currently enrolled and expected to graduate in spring 2007.

The new grant will be used to expand enrollment through targeted recruiting, aiming particularly at filling the nursing vacancies in underserved urban and rural areas. There are 150 designated "health profession shortage areas" in Western New York alone.

"Various studies have found that health-care quality is affected directly by the current nursing shortage," said Michael Redfern, senior staff assistant for academic affairs in the UB nursing school and the project's coordinator. "By increasing the number of baccalaureate-prepared nurses, as well as partnering with community stakeholders, this project is sure to have a positive impact on the quality of health care in Western New York."

Strategic linkages will be developed with the New York Area Health Education Centers (AHECs), area hospitals, and other community agencies to develop strategies to recruit students willing to practice in underserved and minority areas. These partnerships are expected to help the school secure more student clinical placements in the areas of greatest need.

"Many times students become interested in a particular hospital or agency, or even a specialty area, after experiencing the setting firsthand," Redfern said. "Since more students will be completing more

of their clinical rotations within underserved areas, we anticipate an increased interest in practicing in these areas after completing the program."

Funds also will be used to increase the program's flexibility for adult learners by incorporating into the curriculum the most current educational technology, such as personal digital assistants (PDAs) for reference materials and CD-ROM learning modules and Web-enhanced teaching.

The grant also provides training funds for faculty on the new educational technologies, as well as on best strategies for teaching adults and on the health beliefs and attitudes of other cultures. This part of the project will be a collaborative effort involving the UB Center for Teaching and Learning Resources, which will help develop curriculum enhancements and teaching strategies, and the UB Education Technology Center, which will provide assistance with technology-based teaching.

Anne Belcher. Ph.D., senior associate dean for academic affairs at The Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, who helped create a highly successful accelerated BS curriculum at that school, will serve as curriculum consultant.

Raechele Pope, Ph.D., associate professor in the UB Department of Educational Leadership and Policy in the UB Graduate School of Education, will serve as cultural competency consultant. Pope has extensive experience as a private consultant on leadership and multicultural issues in higher education, private industry, and nonprofit and governmental agencies.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State University of New York. The School of Nursing is one of five schools that constitute UB's Academic Health Center.