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UT School of Nursing hosts visit by national ‘Future of Nursing’ task force

Published: February 01, 2010 by – David R. Bates


“Future of Nursing” Initiative staffer Lori Melichar tries out a stethoscope in the Health Assessment lab.

“Future of Nursing” Initiative staffer Lori Melichar tries out a stethoscope in the Health Assessment lab.

Sixteen members of the “Initiative on the Future of Nursing” ad hoc committee made a site visit to the UT School of Nursing Feb. 22, 2010 as part of a national fact-finding project for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) with the Institute of Medicine (IOM).  Dean Patricia L. Starck, D.S.N., R.N., hosted the visitors during a three-hour introduction to features of the School and its pacesetting curriculum.

The study group is gathering information about expanding nursing faculty, increasing the capacity of nursing schools and redesigning nursing education so that it can produce an adequate number of well prepared nurses able to meet current and future health care demands.

Practical demonstrations of nursing education at the UT School of Nursing included a visit to the Simulation Lab, directed by Elda Ramirez, Ph.D., R.N. Two students worked through a scenario that simulated a home visit to a patient (played with gusto by retired physician Hollis Bivens, M.D.) who is new to the home health agency. The students did an initial environmental assessment of his home for safety, and then evaluated his cognitive status and risks of injury from falling.

Instructor Stacy Drake also conducted several health assessment exercises in partnership with retired physicians who volunteer as clinical instructors in a nationally acclaimed program created by Dean Starck and the Harris County Medical Society in 2007.

“They were just amazed,” Dean Starck described the reactions of the visitors. “Elda constructed a realistic environment for the ‘home health visit,’ complete with clutter and a geriatric patient, who really was a longtime colleague now helping to teach health assessment.”

Next, UT School of Nursing faculty members presented six innovative educational models and answered questions from the committee.

Dean Patricia Starck explains the role of the Retired Physicians program in educating nurses, as volunteer instructor Jim L. Walkup, MD, looks on.

Dean Patricia Starck explains the role of the Retired Physicians program in educating nurses, as volunteer instructor Jim L. Walkup, MD, looks on.

Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Cathy Rozmus, D.S.N., R.N., described the school’s new “Pacesetter” B.S.N. program , which is designed to narrow the gap between education and practice by concentrating a full-time clinical semester after three semesters of didactic learning.

The unique “Accelerated Ph.D.” model was introduced by Mara Baun, D.N.Sc., R.N., the Lee and Joseph D. Jamail Distinguished Professor. This program, philanthropically funded by The George Foundation in partnership with other foundations and hospitals, offers financial support of up to $60,000 per year to full-time doctoral students, enabling them to complete the Ph.D. in three years and thus speeding their entry into faculty positions after graduation.

Sharon Ostwald, Ph.D., R.N., director of the Center on Aging and the Isla Carroll Turner Chair in Gerontology Nursing, talked about how interdisciplinary teams of students compete to develop strategies on gerontology issues and learn how to work with and care for older adults.

Eric Thomas, M.D., professor of Internal Medicine at the UT Medical School, described how the “Clinical Safety and Effectiveness” course seeks to develop clinician leaders (nurses, physicians and others) to advance quality and safety and to ensure clinician expertise in the science of improvement.  The course started at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in 2005 and has since expanded to other UT health institutions.

The expected benefits of a new early admission partnership also were presented. Mary Joe White, Ph.D., R.N., associate professor in the Department of Nursing Systems, and Houston Community College’s Betty Young, Ph.D., J.D., president of the Coleman College for Health Sciences, outlined how advisors will guide qualified HCC students in their hoped-for transition into the UT School of Nursing’s B.S.N. program.

A discussion of the school’s extensive use of distance learning technologies was presented by Linda Crays, director of the Center for Education and Information Resources (CEIR).

With gusto, retired physician Hollis Bivens, MD, portrays a geriatric patient being visited for the first time by a home health agency.  As “Future of Nursing” visitors look on, nursing students Richard Wang & Adrian Haynes work through an initial environmental assessment of the patient’s “home” for safety, and then evaluated his cognitive status and risks of injury from falling.  To everyone’s dismay, the patient later “fell” and was treated by the students.

With gusto, retired physician Hollis Bivens, MD, portrays a geriatric patient being visited for the first time by a home health agency. As “Future of Nursing” visitors look on, nursing students Richard Wang & Adrienne Kocher work through an initial environmental assessment of the patient’s “home” for safety, and then evaluated his cognitive status and risks of injury from falling. To everyone’s dismay, the patient later “fell” and was treated by the students."

The committee ended their site visit looking over the UT Health Services (UTHealth) clinic at 7000 Fannin St., where nurse practitioners average about 12,000 patient encounters every per year. Associate Dean for Practice Tom Mackey, Ph.D., F.N.P.-B.C., explained how the UTHealth electronic health record provides valuable research data and is useful in educating students. (Mackey also is the UTHealth director and the PARTNERS Professor in Clinical Nursing.)

Summarizing the responses of the Initiative visitors, Dean Starck said, “They were most impressed – and asked the most questions about – our upcoming Pacesetter Program and the Accelerated Ph.D. project.”

During the first part of the day, the committee heard pre-selected testimony facilitated by former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna E. Shalala, Ph.D., President of the University of Miami and committee chair. Among those from the UT School of Nursing testifying on issues related to the future of nursing education were Dean Starck, who was the first speaker in the open session, and Tomika Harris, D.N.P., R.N., teaching associate in the Department of Integrative Nursing Care.

In her testimony, Dean Starck – who also is the John P. McGovern Distinguished Professor of Nursing – gave a brief synopsis of the school’s innovative education models and told the committee that she anticipates that: “Nurses with the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree will help in re-designing the system of care delivery and making health policy changes for this nation.”

She also identified five changes needed for the future of nursing: 1) setting national standards for clinical competency in D.N.P. degree programs; 2) re-structuring the clinical education of nursing students; 3) upgrading the education of the nursing workforce; 4) establishing a national scope of practice, and, 5) developing demonstration projects of interdisciplinary education.

The Feb. 22 meeting was the third and final nationwide forum hosted by the Initiative.

Dean Starck told the visiting task force studying the critical shortage of nursing school faculty: “Perhaps the root cause is the lack of funds to pay competitive salaries to qualified nurses who might like a teaching career. Across the nation, states are cutting budgets and higher education is suffering, being low in priority as demands for public education, Medicaid, etc. loom larger and larger.”

The purpose of the Future of Nursing initiative is to produce recommendations that address the delivery of nursing services during a critical workforce shortage and the capacity of the nursing education system to educate future professionals to meet the demands of a reformed health care and public health system in the United States.