Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, July 5, 2024

Tennessee schools addressing changing face of nursing

The storied image of the white-capped nurse caring for patients may be a long-gone remnant, but the reality of capable professionals performing 10 vital tasks at once is not.

Nurses still must juggle many tasks, but now they’re doing it in multiple settings as health care moves to community-based models where the hospital is one entry portal among many for patients.

In Tennessee, colleges of nursing are grappling with nursing shortages and burnout by working to train students to the ever-evolving and new professional demands. They also are embracing all types of partnership opportunities to open doors for students, as well as creating mentoring programs so that the students they graduate don’t flee the profession a year or two into it. Here are some of the ways they are adapting, evolving and succeeding.

More Degree Paths: The Vanderbilt School of Nursing offers 14 advanced practice nursing specialties in its Master of Science in Nursing program and two doctoral degrees. The University of Tennessee’s nursing schools in Chattanooga and Knoxville also are adding and expanding coursework and degree options, as are private schools such as Belmont University.

Diversity: The overall nursing shortage is due, in part, to low numbers of nurses of color and from underrepresented groups. Patients and their families will benefit when nurses reflect the populations they serve, and the same goes for teaching faculty and health care administration. Dr. Rolanda Johnson, professor and associate dean for equity, diversity and inclusion, heads up EDI efforts at Vanderbilt, which to date have included dropping a GRE requirement and moving to more holistic admissions.

The school has also partnered with VUMC and its nursing leadership to launch the Academy for Diverse Emerging nurse Leaders, a weeklong academy that equips early-career nurses and nurse faculty with tools, self-awareness, mentors and the wisdom to lead and advance.

Nurse Anesthetists: As boomer era nurses retire, there is a growing shortage of Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists, advanced practice nurses who administer and monitor anesthesia. An aging population means more surgical procedures, which increases the need for anesthesia.

CRNA programs are usually three years long and graduates earn doctor of Nursing practice degrees, the highest clinical degree in nursing. Currently Vanderbilt is in the process of creating a CRNA program, and other Tennessee schools are looking into the option as well.

Online Education: Remote education is not new, and the COVID pandemic turbocharged its use at every educational level. Nursing colleges were no different, and they have continued to produce new learning pathways to reach not just students, but those who teach them.

Belmont has created the Academic Clinical Nurse Educator Program, which equips instructors and preceptors with the latest teaching strategies. The asynchronous, six-week online program aligns with the National League for Nursing’s essential competencies, offering interactive modules, self-reflection exercises and practical scenarios facilitated by seasoned clinical faculty.

The curriculum covers a wide range of educator roles, including teacher/coach, facilitator, protector, socialization agent, leader/influencer, role model and evaluator.

Participants will not only enhance their teaching abilities but also gain valuable preparation for the NLN’s Academic Clinical Nurse Educator certification exam. Upon successful completion of the program, participants will earn 18 hours of Continuing Education Units.

New Accredited Courses: Nursing schools are also adding to their hands-on offerings. The UTC School of Nursing’s simulation program has received the designation of “endorsed” for the cornerstone standards of prebriefing, debriefing, facilitation and professional integrity from the International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning.

The school uses advanced technology, including high-fidelity manikins, virtual reality and standardized patient actors to mimic realistic clinical scenarios. It has a safe hospital, simulated operating room and primary care exam rooms set up for simulation.