College Debt Delays RN Advancement

College Debt Delays RN Advancement

Often the leading factor in nurses’ decisions about academic progression

Students are graduating from college with significant amounts of educational debt — in 2015 the average student borrower had $30,100 in loans upon graduation — and a recently published study finds that nurses are no different.

When Jan Jones-Schenk, DHSc, RN, NE-BC, national director for the college of health professions at Western Governors University, surveyed 1,299 working nurses for the study, 62% of the respondents reported they had prior college debt.

More than 39% of those with debt said their debt ranged from $1 to $24,999 while 23.5% reported debt greater than $25,000. Approximately one-third of the respondents said they had no prior college debt.

“Some had debt as high as $100,000, and 7% reported debt greater than $50,000. That’s a lifetime of debt,” Jones-Schenk said.

The study also found that educational debt influences nurses’ decisions about academic progression.

“The data showed that most of the people who have an education plan are going to go on, and they have debt,” she said. “But if they have more than $10,000 in college debt they’re going to delay their educational advancement so they’re not going to go on as quickly.”

Debt’s Influence on Education Decisions

When the National Academy of Medicine’s (formerly the Institute of Medicine) report, “The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health,” was released in 2010, it had very specific recommendations on the educational preparation of RNs.

The report called for 80% of nurses to hold a baccalaureate degree by 2020, and for the number of nurses with doctorate degrees to double during that time as well. It also called upon healthcare organizations to encourage nurses with associate’s and diploma degrees to enter baccalaureate nursing programs within 5 years of graduation, and for accredited nursing schools to ensure that at least 10% of all baccalaureate graduates enrolled in master’s or doctoral program within 5 years of graduation.

“We all understand the basis of that,” Jones-Schenk said. “But I do think that nurse leaders may not understand that while they may offer tuition reimbursement or other incentives for their staff, they may not be aware of the current level of debt those people have already.”

While nurses with ADNs may want to obtain BSNs, they may already carry a large amount of educational debt from their associate’s degree program.

“Because I do have students in all 50 states, I was seeing programs where students were coming to me with an associate degree and it seemed like their college debt was already pretty high,” she said of her inspiration for the study. “Some of the associate degree programs were at $60,000.”

The Need for Financial Knowledge

Jones-Schenk said that good financial mentoring is one way to help nurses keep their educational debt in check.

“If [students] are eligible for federal financial aid or state financial aid, without good counseling they may take the maximum amount of eligibility. But they may not need all that,” she said.

“In our university, we have a specific initiative called ‘the responsible borrowing initiative.’ We counsel students about how much borrowing they really need and not to over-borrow … so they’re going to be able to go on without that debt as a barrier.”

Nurses should also look at the overall cost of a program, even if a college or university is offering a discount to their employer.

“‘If you’re saying, ‘Well, I’m going to go to the school that offers the 20% tuition discount versus one that offers a 5% discount,’ that percentage of discount is meaningless. What matters is the ultimate cost to the student,” Jones-Schenk said. “That’s where I think a lot of people get hung up. They think they’re going to go to a school because they offer a 20% discount, but the ultimate cost to the student is still $30,000 versus $10,000 [with a smaller discount].”

Responsibility for minimizing debt shouldn’t be placed entirely on the student. Jones-Schenk said that low-interest rate loans and loan forgiveness programs are tools that could help defray educational debt.

“Nurse leaders, people in higher education, the government, and other individuals who have an interest in healthcare are all worried about healthcare costs,” she said. “This is part of it as well. I would hope that we would take a serious look at the cost of higher education and its value and contribution to the health of the nation.”

This story was originally posted on MedPage Today.

Report: Nurse Education Demo Project Good for Primary Care

Report: Nurse Education Demo Project Good for Primary Care

Healthcare workforce gains seen with Medicare-funded test program

An increase in government funding for clinical training opportunities for advanced practice registered nursing (APRN) is a feasible and affordable way to grow the primary care workforce, according to a Report to Congress on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Graduate Nurse Education Demonstration.

The $200 million initiative was started in 2012 to determine if Medicare funding for graduate clinical education for APRNs, similar to residency training for physicians, could help meet meet the health needs of the U.S. population.

“There is a shortage of primary care providers in this country and the education of more APRNs can be part of the solution to increasing access to care,” Barbara A. Todd, DNP, director of Graduate Nurse Education (GNE) Demonstration at the Hospital University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, told MedPage Today.

CMS awarded funding for clinical training programs to five hospitals, which then partnered with accredited schools of nursing and non-hospital community-based care settings to deliver primary, preventive, and transitional care to Medicare beneficiaries.

The five hospitals are Duke University Hospital in Durham, North Carolina; Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center in Houston, Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, and HonorHealth Scottsdale Osborn Medical Center in Arizona.

Lori Hull-Grommesh, director of demonstration at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, commented on program results in the Texas Gulf Coast area, noting that 95% of APRN graduates are employed in the community setting and are helping meet critical access needs. She said she believes that national funding would allow these results to be replicated in other states.

Linda H. Aiken, PhD, coordinator of the GNE Demonstration Consortium of University of Pennsylvania, agreed. “If permanent Medicare funding were available for the clinical training of advanced practice nurses in all states, the national shortage of primary care could be solved and Americans would be able to get timely healthcare where ever they live.”

The report stated that demonstration schools had significantly greater APRN enrollment and graduation growth than comparison schools. It also touched on financial incentives: clinical training for an APRN came to a total of $30,000 compared with $150,000 for just 1 year of community-based residency training for primary care physicians.

Although the GNE demonstration is slated to conclude at the end of June 2018, the five hospitals are currently collaborating with major national stakeholders in order to promote permanent funding to roll out the program nationally.

“All five sites are working together to promote efforts for ongoing funding, along with major stakeholders AARP and [American Association of Critical-Care Nurses], who were instrumental from the beginning,” explained Hull-Grommesh. This is being done through publications, meetings, presentations and discussions with our legislators, she added.

Aiken noted that various types of healthcare organizations, including physician practices and retail clinics, are hiring nurse practitioners in larger numbers and supporting efforts like the demonstration to increase the supply for advanced practice nurses. Also, healthcare settings are working to recruit more advanced practice nurses, especially for their valuable role in ending the opioid epidemic and addressing unmet mental healthcare needs, she pointed out.

This story was originally posted on MedPage Today.

How a Nursing Career with VA Changed a Former Combat Medic’s Life

How a Nursing Career with VA Changed a Former Combat Medic’s Life

Jeffrey Ballard, R.N. and Army Veteran, began his medical career as an emergency medical technician (EMT). After gaining experience as a paramedic and a licensed practical nurse (LPN), he became a registered nurse in the Emergency Department at a Level 1 Trauma Center. He was deployed to Afghanistan two years later as an infantry medic, where he sustained injuries in combat. Following a year and a half of surgeries and physical therapy back home, Ballard returned to emergency nursing, but his struggle with PTSD prompted his departure within a year.

Ballard received care at the Manchester VA Medical Center, and he decided to continue his nursing career there. “I wanted other Veterans to have the same comfort I experienced,” he said.

Today, Ballard has been working with the VA for nearly five years and serves in a program that helps elderly Veterans maintain their independence. Working alongside compassionate nurses and caring for combat Veterans like himself has helped Ballard rediscover his passion and flourish in his career. With his experience, he’s been able to better understand and build trust with Veterans in a way that generates comfort and healing for both parties. Recently, Ballard won the title “Red Sox Nurse Hero of 2018” and was invited to throw a game-opening pitch at the historic Fenway Park.

VA offers Veterans not only life-changing care but also life-changing careers. Join our team and discover the unique rewards that come from serving our nation’s heroes. To get started, search for opportunities near you and apply today.

This story was originally posted on VAntage Point. 

VA nurses are empowered to go above and beyond for their patients

VA nurses are empowered to go above and beyond for their patients

Stricken with kidney failure brought on by ALS – a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects voluntary muscle movements – Navy Veteran Richard Cole was told that his only option was relocating to a nursing home, where professionals could oversee his 24/7 health care needs. But he and his wife Yvette, who had no previous medical training, were determined to stop that from happening. So Yvette turned to the one person she thought might give them a fighting chance: her husband’s nurse, Pamela Wade.

Caring for Mr. Cole’s advanced ALS required hemodialysis, ventilators, and round-the-clock care, not typically-available options for in-home treatment. But after realizing how important it was to Richard that he go home, Nurse Wade began training his wife Yvette to care for her own husband on her own terms.

“There are certain criteria you have to pass to go home,” Wade said. “He didn’t fit any of them, but… I couldn’t say no.”

Two-and-a-half-years later, Yvette is still successfully managing her own husband’s treatment and the couple is doing great.

“Pam has been a godsend,” Yvette said. “I can’t say enough good things about her. I am just grateful she stepped in when she did.”

In working with the nation’s bravest patients, VA understands the great strength and toll that their service sometimes takes. That’s why we do everything we can to empower our nurses, doctors, technicians and administrators to adapt protocols and go ‘above and beyond,’ to care for our patients as much on their own terms as possible.

To explore open opportunities and your own empowered career with VA, visit www.vacareers.va.gov.

This story was originally posted on VAntage Point.

New RN to BSN Online Program at University of Cincinnati College of Nursing

New RN to BSN Online Program at University of Cincinnati College of Nursing

The University of Cincinnati College of Nursing and UC Health have partnered together to launch a new program for nurses working full-time who want to further their education. The RN to BSN Online Cohort Program will provide free tuition to a select group of UC Health nurses, who will be able to obtain a BSN through the UC College of Nursing over 12 months.

“We’re excited to see our partnership with UC Health get broader and stronger every day,” UC College of Nursing Dean Greer Glazer told the UC Health Media Room. “The UC College of Nursing has a long-standing reputation of educating nurse leaders, and we are honored to have the opportunity to educate a passionate, intelligent group of leaders to continue our legacy within the Academic Health Center.”

To qualify for the free tuition and 12-month program, nurses must be employed at least a year by UC Health and agree to continue working at UC Health for at least two years after completing the program. The UC Health nursing leadership will select students to participate over the next three years.

“Nurse leaders will consider an employee’s dedication to UC Health values, mission statement and vision, the recommendations from management and other nurse leadership, employment history with UC Health, work ethic and previous academic achievement,” UC Health communications consultant Elizabeth Bielman told The News Record.

The program consists of nine courses and allows students to choose between part-time and full-time, to accommodate their working schedules. Students will take three courses each fall, spring, and summer semester to finish their BSN degree within 12 months.

Clarence Pauley, UC Health senior vice president and chief human resources officer, shared with the UC Health Media Room: “This program embodies a critically important component of our tripartite mission of providing education, clinical research and the highest standard of patient care. UC Health strongly believes in investing in advancement and growth opportunities for its nurses, who are integral to the patient journey and to our organization.”

Night Shift Care Packages Gifted During Daylight Savings Time

Night Shift Care Packages Gifted During Daylight Savings Time

For the sixth year in a row, WGU Indiana delivered Night Shift Nurse Appreciation Kits to hospitals and healthcare facilities across Indiana for daylight savings time. These kits were provided to nurses who worked an extra hour during their usual, and already difficult, shifts.

“WGU Indiana is distributing the Night Shift Nurse Appreciation Kits for the sixth year, to honor the important and often unrecognized contributions of night shift nurses,” WGU Indiana Chancellor Allison Barber shared, prior to daylight savings time. This year, roughly 4,000 nurses in 127 hospitals and health care units across Indiana received these kits on their extra long shifts. Each kit contained treats, a thank you note, sleep masks and stress balls.

In addition to the usual work challenges that all nurses tackle, night shift nurses run into problems on the job that affect more than their careers. Having their circadian rhythm thrown off by their working hours, these night shift nurses are put at risk for fatigue and other health issues.

“From my work as a night shift nurse for 38 years, I recognize that night shift nurses don’t always receive the same recognition as employees who work during the day,” said Mary Lawson Carney, WGU Indiana State Director of Nursing, DNP, RN-BC, CCRN, CNE. “Night shift work has a significant impact on the physical, psychosocial and professional lives of nurses.”

The care packages also included information about the WGU Indiana Night Shift Nurse Scholarship. There are five $2,000 scholarships available to Indiana night shift nurses who are interested in advancing their education through WGU Indiana’s College of Health Professions.

Last year Dea Gillfillan, a night shift nurse and WGU Indiana student, was one of the five scholarship recipients and is grateful to the school for giving her opportunities to advance her education. “The flexibility of my online coursework with WGU has allowed me to study on my days off and the Night Shift Nurse Scholarship made my degree that much more affordable,” Gillfillan shared. 

To learn more about WGU Indiana and the Night Shift Nurse Scholarship, click here.


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