Recently I had the pleasure to talk with several people who had recent experiences in health care facilities. The interesting information that I received was that each person told me a Southern Miss nurse took care of him or her during the hospital stay. The theme that emerged from these unsolicited conversations was that their nurse really made a positive difference in their experience.
These conversations caused me to reflect on an email that I received from a recent graduate stating that he enjoyed his job as a nurse and most of all, he enjoyed knowing at the end of the day that he had done something worthwhile that had made a positive impact on someone’s life.
Southern Miss Nursing is making a difference by providing quality programs that prepare our students to be competent in their practice. Nurses who have confidence in their knowledge base, clinical skills, and clinical decision-making instill trust in patients coping with health problems. This trust provides the foundation for positive health outcomes.
Southern Miss Nursing is Transforming Nursing, Impacting Health Care.
I am frequently asked questions relating to the number of students admitted into the College of Nursing. The most frequent questions are: have we decreased the number of students admitted into the nursing program; are our students able to get jobs; and is there a nursing shortage. The conversations generally focus on the awareness that many healthcare facilities across the country are hiring very few new graduates, as they do not have any practice experience outside of educational clinical experiences. All of these are good questions.
It is true that in the past couple of years, new graduates from all nursing programs have experienced a delay in obtaining employment upon graduation. Seventy-four percent of our graduates are employed within 4-6 months after graduation. This rate is much higher than the reported national rate for university graduates. Multiple factors influence the decline in job opportunities for new nursing graduates. The most significant contributor is the declining economy that resulted in nurses delaying retirement. The reaction of health care agencies to the changing economy have led to hiring freezes and hiring nurses with two or more years of experiences into the limited vacancies. Changes in health care delivery and funding are changing the arenas of practice from hospitals to other settings such as clinics, home health, and community settings. Also, the clinical area of nursing practice is moving from generalized practice to specialized practice (e.g. emergency room, intensive care, psychiatric settings).
The College of Nursing has not decreased the number of students enrolled in nursing. Reality is that due to an improving economy, more than half of the current nursing workforce is poised to retire en masse between now and 2022.
The term Tsunami: RN Retirement is being used when describing this mass exodus from the practice and educational setting. In 2013 the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics updated its nursing employment projections for 2012-2022. It is now predicted that employment of nurses is projected to grow 19 percent, which is higher than the projected employment growth of 11% in all occupations. The magnitude of the looming nurse shortage is problematic. A demand for healthcare services will increase due to the aging population resulting in an increased population who are living with chronic health problems such as diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, and cardiovascular disease. There is also a high demand for nurse practitioners, and for faculty and Deans in programs of nursing.
The College of Nursing will continue to offer nursing programs that are responsive to nursing workforce needs, needs of our community of interest, and changing trends in healthcare delivery. We will continue to graduate entry-level nurses, family nurse practitioners, psychiatric nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, researchers, faculty, and administrators.
Once again, it is the beginning of a new academic year at The University of Southern Mississippi and the College of Nursing. We had a busy summer school session with a very large enrollment in our nursing programs. Even though we barely had time to catch our breath from the end of the summer term to the beginning of the fall term, we are excited and prepared to begin the new academic year.
This summer, work began on preparing the site for construction of our new College of Nursing building. On September 17th, at 10:00 AM the formal ground breaking ceremony for Asbury Hall will occur. We are so grateful to all the donors who have invested in the College’s future and made this dream a reality. This past July, through a competitive grant process, we received over a million dollars to implement an accelerated baccalaureate program for Veterans. The program is designed to provide academic credit for previous medical experience and training and provide a mechanism for removing barriers that impede our veterans from obtaining a baccalaureate degree.
Another new program that is being implemented is a new leadership tract for the BSN graduate that will culminate in a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. This program is offered in collaboration with the College of Business who developed a business certificate that will enhance the competencies of the graduates in their administrative positions.
So, we enter the new academic year anticipating the opportunities that will advance our vision, Breaking New Ground; Transforming Health Care.
Last month, students received baccalaureate, masters, and doctoral degrees from the College of Nursing. As I watched our students walk across the stage to receive their diplomas, I noticed their excitement and confidence as they transitioned to a new phase in their life. Students were confident because they have the knowledge, competencies, professional values, and role development needed to be successful in their chosen practice of nursing. Excited because they are assuming roles as entry-level nurses, nurse practitioners, nursing faculty, or nurse administrators. I wonder if they realized that in addition to their chosen professional role, they would also be emerging leaders.
The healthcare delivery system is constantly and continuously changing. Along with it, the field of nursing also evolves in such a way that it enables questioning of existing practices, the development of new knowledge and the improvement of delivery of health care services. The opportunity for leadership will exist and Southern Miss students are capable of providing leadership in change. Three of our current DNP students, Arlen Cooper, Sharon Catledge, and Courtney Bennett are examples of emerging leaders. Arlen is a Jonas Scholar and has participated in national health policy activities, Sharon is serving as the President of the Mississippi State Board of Nursing, and Courtney is featured on the American Association of Colleges of Nursing link as an emerging leader (http://www.aacn.nche.edu/students/gnsa/gnsa-bulletin/2014/may).
Last month, the American Association of College of Nursing (AACN) released data that showed that graduates with a baccalaureate or master’s degree in nursing are more likely to have job offers at the time of graduation or within 4 to 6 months following graduation (Journal of Professional Nursing, 2014). That is encouraging news amidst concerns about new college graduates finding employment in today’s job market.
This is not only encouraging news for the graduates of our program but for the current and future population who access healthcare. For the past decade a significant body of research has demonstrated that nurses with a baccalaureate-level preparation are linked to better patient outcomes. Based upon these studies, the faculty at Southern Miss has designed the curriculum to prepare graduates who have strong clinical decision making skills and are prepared to practice from a culture of patient safety. The use of simulation and case studies in the classroom enhance the acquisition of the knowledge and competencies needed for successful nursing practice.
In a recent conversation with an administrator at one of our health care agencies, I was inspired to hear the success of our recent graduates who are working together in a patient care unit and making a difference in the quality of care in that agency. Just one example of our baccalaureate nurses making a difference in the State of Mississippi.