Northern Illinois University

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Brigid Lusk
Brigid Lusk

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News Release

Contact: Mark McGowan, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-9472

June 4, 2008

Brigid Lusk among Illinois delegation
chosen for national summit on nursing shortage

DeKalb — The chair of Northern Illinois University’s School of Nursing and Health Studies will help to represent Illinois this month at a national workshop organized to examine the nursing shortage and explore ways to expand nursing education.

Brigid Lusk is among nine members of Team Illinois, one of 18 states chosen to participate in the Nursing Education Capacity Summit, scheduled for June 26 and 27 in Arlington, Va. Summit preparation begins Thursday with a mandatory webinar for all participants.

Sponsors are the U.S. Department of Labor, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Center to Champion Nursing and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Participants will share best practices and innovative strategies and develop solutions-based approaches that will boost the ability of nursing schools to educate future nurses. Their discussion will focus on four key aspects for that expansion:

  • strategic partnerships and resource alignment
  • the role of policy and regulation
  • increasing faculty capacity and diversity
  • education redesign

Enormous numbers of students want to pursue nursing careers but schools cannot accommodate them all for lack of classroom space, faculty and clinical locations. NIU alone received about 1,800 applicants this year and can admit less than 10 percent of those, Lusk said.

“We might have enough nurses for today’s needs, but the projection is for a huge increase in patients over the next 20 years. We have a growing elderly population,” Lusk said. “And nursing is a difficult line of work. Some nurses can’t take the stress level. Hospitals need to cover staffing 24-7 and nurses work odd hours.”

According to estimates from the Illinois Center for Nursing, the nursing shortage in the northeast region of Illinois will near 3,000 through the year 2014. The formula calculates a need for up to 4,500 in those six years and a supply of 1,500.

NIU and the State of Illinois are working to increase capacity at nursing schools.

Enrollment in the nursing school will rise this year to 160 – 80 students are admitted each semester – with the addition of two visiting professors. The Office of the Provost is providing eight visiting professors to the College of Health and Human Sciences, Lusk said.

The struggle to locate clinical sites will lessen come August with the opening of a human patient simulation lab, funded through one of three expansion grants from the Illinois Board of Higher Education. That $450,680 in state money also allowed the hiring of one tenure-track professor and two instructors. Now in Year Two, the nursing program has been granted a further $300,000 from the board.

NIU now is creating an accelerated, post-baccalaureate nursing program. Students who already have bachelor’s degrees in other disciplines could begin nursing careers in 18 months.

Meanwhile, a trio of NIU nursing faculty has become fellows of the state’s Nurse Educator Fellowship Program. The initiative, which began in December of 2006, awards $10,000 to its honorees to ensure the retention of well-qualified nursing educators.

IBHE members recognized the school for its outreach to working nurses who wish to complete bachelor’s degrees or master’s degrees while still maintaining job and family responsibilities. Partners include community colleges and hospitals.

“NIU really is concerned about the workforce shortage in nursing and wants to contribute,” Lusk said. “We’ve been a vocal player in several regional efforts to address the shortage.”

Teams for 49 states applied to participate in the national summit. The other states invited to send teams are Alabama, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Members of Team Illinois include representatives from the Illinois Center for Nursing, St. Francis Medical Center, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, the Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council, the Chicago Community Trust, Connect SI (a project manager of nursing workforce initiatives in southern Illinois), Lewis and Clark Community College and Partners in Nursing for Central Illinois.

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