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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Doing What Is Needed: The College of Nursing at UMB

The American nursing shortage dilemma has been met head on by the University of Massachusetts. Baby boomers’ impending needs for health care combined with the upcoming loss of nurses to retirement, and the dwindling interest on the part of young people in choosing a career in nursing is a daunting mix. As these social trends move towards critical mass policy makers at UMass Boston must devise and execute a plan of action that will help pare down the nurse-to-patient ratio.

Marion Whinfrey, UMass Boston’s associate dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, said 1 of every 9 nurses working in Boston hospitals are UMass Boston graduates. Nurses For a Healthier Tomorrow state that what is needed is a larger production of nurses with needed specialties, for example, nurse specialists for operating rooms, recovery rooms, emergency rooms, intensive care, critical care, pediatrics, newborn intensive care, pediatric intensive care, labor and delivery, and of course the graduate-educated nursing leaders.

When the Dean was asked how the school is addressing the nursing shortage she said the school is increasing faculty, promoting summer school, expanding enrollment, raising standards to insure licensure of registered nurses, and offering online courses. However, there are limitations to how far UMass Boston can push regarding the nursing shortage, simply because the Boston health care community can only absorb so much of what UMass Boston has to offer.

Attracting a lot of qualified faculty goes hand in hand with the escalating enrollment at UMass Boston. UMass Boston has a strong 1 to 6 instructor-to-student ratio, better than many schools, according to Dean Whinfrey. It is hoped this ratio will be kept steady by hiring more faculty as enrollment grows.

Nursing students will be encouraged to take advantage of the summer school program. Doing so will lighten their fall and spring semester course loads and strengthen their success rates.

Raising standards to insure licensure will enhance bachelor students’ abilities to excel in a graduate program More licensed nurses means more patients can be served, since nurses with a masters degree function more autonomously. Self-governing nurses are able to minimize involvement of other departments allowing them to maximize their time with patients.

Dean Whinfrey says that the nursing school’s curriculum is focused on science, anatomy/lab, pharmacology, health assessment, and health care informatics, along with practical applications focusing on developing critical thinking. This curriculum has helped UMass Boston attract students. In 2002 applications were up 157 from the previous year.

According to census bureau statistics, after the eighteen-year baby boom, birth rates in America fell drastically. The 1990 census puts the baby boomers at a staggering 77 million, and the post baby boomers, or the generation Xers, at 44 million. This leaves the difference between them at a whopping 33 million. What does this mean? The census bureau says that “as the older baby boomers shrink and the generation Xer’s grow, the boomer to Xer gap will start to decline by 2010.” The problem with this decline is that it won’t have enough kick to significantly help the nursing shortage.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing says enrollment into baccalaureate programs fell 2.1 percent in 2000 and has been declining for six years. The fact that an enrollment decline exists at the collegiate level shows the importance of gaining the interest of the young. The University of Massachusetts can boast having a hefty combined total of 645 baccalaureates, masters, and PhD students of nursing.