|By G. Michael Dobbs|
CHICOPEE A $25,000 grant to Elms College and the University of Massachusetts Amherst will fund a pilot project that will address the serious shortage of nursing professors in Massachusetts.
The grant for "Increasing the Pipeline to Ph.D. Education" was announced Thursday at Elms College by President James Mullen.
"This is a very important announcement for Elms College and the University of Massachusetts," he said.
"Faculty shortages at nursing schools across the country are limiting student capacity at a time when the need for nurses continues to grow. Budget constraints, an aging faculty, and increasing job competition from clinical sites have contributed to this emerging crisis," according to a report from The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (ACCN).
The ACCN report stated last year the Commonwealth needed 70,621 nurses, but had a shortfall of 4,820 nurses or 7 percent. The shortage is expected to climb to 12 percent by 2010, which was described as "an unacceptably dangerous shortage" by the Massachusetts Public Higher Education Initiative on Nursing and Allied Health Education.
In 2003, 583 qualified applicants were denied admission to Massachusetts nursing programs. The "single most important contributing factor" was the lack of faculty members in those programs, according to the ACCN.
The pilot program will take five Elms nursing honors students and five UMass honors students and pair them with faculty members during their sophomore or junior years. The students will then work with the faculty members as research assistants for one year and conduct an honors project during the second year.
The students will then be eligible for direct admission into the UMass-Amherst doctoral program once they complete their undergraduate degree.
Kathleen Scoble, the director of the Department of Nursing at Elms College and Eileen Breslin, dean of the College of Nursing at UMass Amherst developed the pilot program.
According to Scoble, the selection process will begin this spring.
Breslin said, the program "will pair the best and the brightest" students with faculty members.
One of the hurdles to overcome in encouraging students to pursue an academic career is the disparity in salary. According to Breslin the difference can be as high as $20,000 to $30,000 and young nurses have taken the option to make more money in the private sector.
"We need to get creative," she said, referring to finding solutions for this problem.
Mullen said the pilot program was "a wonderful model and I think it can be replicated on other situations. It's a way we can have an impact on the economy of the region."