School of Nursing one of four schools selected for U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs Program to address nursing shortage


The VA Connecticut Healthcare System and Fairfield University's School of Nursing were selected by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to be part of a new five-year, $40 million pilot program called the 'Nursing Academy' that addresses the nation's severe nursing shortage. Fairfield University is one of just four universities in the country to be chosen to take part in the 5-year pilot program.

A press release issued by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs this morning said, "To provide compassionate, highly-trained nurses to look after the health care needs of the nation's veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is launching a new initiative that partners the Department's world-class health care system with four of the country's finest nursing schools."

Fairfield University President Rev. Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J. said of the selection, "This is very exciting for the new opportunities it presents to our School of Nursing to serve our veterans and at the same time a great honor that we are among only four schools of nursing selected throughout the country. I couldn't be more proud of our School of Nursing and the dedication of the dean and faculty to making available to all the finest practices in healthcare."

According to the VA, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing has reported that more than 42,000 qualified applicants in the United States were turned away from nursing schools in 2006 because of insufficient numbers of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space and clinical mentors. The 'Nursing Academy' aims to ensure the VA has enough nurses to care for veterans.

In addition to Fairfield, the other schools selected for the first-phase of the program are the University of Florida in Gainesville, San Diego State University, and the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. The four schools were chosen from among 42 applicants.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson said, "The expanded role of VA in the education of nurses will ensure the Department has the nurses needed to continue our world-class health care for veterans. Our strengthened partnerships with these four great nursing schools will enhance the faculty and clinical resources needed to educate nurses."

Additional schools will be named next year and in 2009, for a total of 12 partnerships, a VA spokesperson said. Among the goals are expanding the ranks of teaching faculty at schools, improving recruitment and retention of students, and creating new education and research opportunities. Ultimately, the program aims to increase nursing student enrollment by a grand total of about 1,000 students among the 12 nursing schools taking part.

The VA Connecticut Healthcare System (VACHS) in West Haven, Conn., is an important clinical site for the educating of Fairfield University nursing students. VACHS and the University will hire three VA-based faculty members and two school-based faculty members who will be dedicated to working with Fairfield’s students.

According to Jeanne M. Novotny, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, dean of the School of Nursing, the Nursing Academy will focus on nursing education and the professional and scholarly development of nurses, as well as increasing the mutually beneficial outcomes that enhance the care of veterans. Evaluation of the program will be implemented at the local partnership level and at the national level. Evaluations will include structure, process and outcomes assessment related to nursing-sensitive measures such as pain management, medication errors, falls, and infections. "Being chosen for this exciting program is a testament to the successful established educational partnership between Fairfield University and the VA Connecticut Healthcare System."

Fairfield's nursing majors are grounded in a range of disciplines so that they understand nursing as an economic, social, cultural, and scientific concern. Fairfield is affiliated with more than 50 agencies serving every need and every population: small and large hospitals, schools and community health centers, outpatient departments and rehabilitation centers, in poor and affluent neighborhoods, in urban and suburban communities. The School of Nursing prepares its graduates to be exceptionally skilled, deeply experienced, broad-minded practitioners. Students interested in finding out more about this opportunity should call the School of Nursing.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on July 31, 2007

Vol. 40, No. 13