This semester, Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden enrolled the first cohort of AtlantiCare employees in its Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program, marking the start of a three-year contract that will address the region’s critical nurse shortage by creating an equitable opportunity pipeline to high-demand nursing jobs.
The collaboration, made tangible by a memorandum of understanding signed in the fall of 2022, offers reduced tuition for AtlantiCare employees who are accepted to various School of Nursing–Camden programs. In turn, current nursing students will benefit from increased clinical learning opportunities as well as hands-on instruction and mentoring from experienced staff across AtlantiCare’s vast network.
“The School of Nursing–Camden is proud to partner with AtlantiCare on this initiative,” said Marie O’Toole, interim dean of the School of Nursing–Camden. “There are so many dedicated healthcare workers who wish to climb the ladder but face insurmountable financial barriers. This partnership will make those dreams accessible, allowing us to nurture a diverse pool of local talent to serve the community’s growing healthcare needs.”
A report from the New Jersey Collaborating Center for Nursing found the state’s health care workforce could lose another 10,000 nurses to retirement or other jobs over the next few years, placing undue stress on an already strained system. Nancy Powell, director of professional development at AtlantiCare, said the partnership stems from the institutions’ shared interest in ensuring that nurses in southern New Jersey can access a world-class academic experience. By creating a more affordable avenue for nurses to obtain post-graduate degrees, the School of Nursing–Camden will remove a major roadblock to advancement in the field.
“AtlantiCare has chosen Rutgers–Camden as one of our academic partners because the university gives graduate students a strong understanding of evidence-based practice,” Powell said. “We are excited to see how this group of students will benefit our patients and community.”
AtlantiCare has created avenues to clinical placement and post-graduation employment for School of Nursing–Camden students. The partnership will make it easier for School of Nursing–Camden students to fulfill their clinical requirements—a leading source of stress amid staff shortages and COVID-19 protocols that continue to limit in-person instruction.
Another element of the partnership is a nurse residency program designed to reduce attrition of new nurses, said Jason Love, senior program coordinator for the School of Nursing–Camden. AtlantiCare will harness the school’s robust body of research to design a customized “transition into practice” program that assigns veteran AtlantiCare nurses to mentor and train School of Nursing–Camden graduates.
Over time, said Love, this relationship will bridge the academic-practice gap, allowing the School of Nursing–Camden to pilot new research findings and innovate in nursing leadership curriculums, best clinical practices, and more.
“Based on our own knowledge of best practices, the School of Nursing may, for example, implement more Spanish-language materials in emergency rooms with high Spanish-speaking populations,” said Love. “Then AtlantiCare will implement that policy, track those patients, and determine whether the practice is effective. This partnership aligns firmly with the School of Rutgers–Camden’s mission to cultivate an inclusive workforce and provide extraordinary patient care.”
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