Think Out Loud

New OHSU academy aims to increase nursing faculty

By Elizabeth Castillo (OPB)
Dec. 2, 2022 6:06 p.m. Updated: Dec. 9, 2022 6:37 p.m.

Broadcast: Friday, Dec. 2

OHSU School of Nursing Ashland Campus students practice nursing skills in September 2022. A national shortage of nursing school faculty and nurse preceptors prevents nursing schools from teaching more students. More nurses are needed to meet growing health care demands.

OHSU School of Nursing Ashland Campus students practice nursing skills in September 2022. A national shortage of nursing school faculty and nurse preceptors prevents nursing schools from teaching more students. More nurses are needed to meet growing health care demands.

Allen Hallmark/courtesy of OHSU

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The Oregon Nursing Education Academy, a new program by Oregon Health & Science University, aims to address the shortage in nursing faculty. Susan Bakewell-Sachs is a professor and the Dean and Vice President for Nursing Affairs at the university. Joanne Noone is a professor in the OHSU School of Nursing. She also leads the new academy. They join us with more about the program and issues facing the industry.

Note: This transcript was computer generated and edited by a volunteer.

Dave Miller: This is Think Out Loud on OPB. I’m Dave Miller. There are not enough nurses in this country to meet patient demand, and there aren’t enough nurse educators – people to train and mentor nurses-to-be. A new program at OHSU aims to tackle this second shortage. It’s called the Oregon Nursing Education Academy. It’s supported by a nearly $4 million federal grant. Joanne Noone is a professor in the OHSU School of Nursing. Susan Bakewell-Sachs is the Dean of the school and the Vice President for Nursing Affairs. They both join me now. It’s good to have both of you onThink Out Loud.

Susan Bakewell-Sachs: Thank you.

Joanne Noone: Thanks Dave.

Miller: Susan Bakewell-Sachs first, what does the nursing faculty shortage look like in Oregon right now?

Bakewell-Sachs: Thank you for that question. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing collects data annually to track this very thing and in 2020, reported that 14.8%, or nearly 15% of Oregon’s nursing school faculty positions were unfilled at that time. At OHSU, across our five campuses, we have been running just under about 12% vacancy rate. And so those numbers are high.

Miller: So one in seven or one in eight or so, something like that. What are the repercussions of that shortage?

Bakewell-Sachs: It does affect education capacity. Education capacity requires that we have the faculty we need – those are individuals who know how to teach and and support learning. It also means that we have to have clinical placements and nurses who can support that learning. So a faculty shortage is one of the key factors that limits our capacity to educate.

Miller: Joanne Noone, can you explain how the new nursing academy is going to work?

Noone: The academy actually has two arms, two programs: one is called the clinical nurse scholar program. That seeks to admit nurses from throughout Oregon, in particular at our major clinical partners in the state, into our Master’s in Nursing Education Program. That’s a two-year, part-time program of study that will lead to a master’s degree, and it’s primarily online. The second program is called our preceptor program. That’s really to bring experienced nurses, who mentor new nurses and nursing students in the clinical setting, into our graduate program to take two courses to enhance their skills to be preceptors. One course is called Understanding Social Determinants of Health. The second course is called Clinical Nursing. That’s going to be a six-month program. Those two courses also are online.

Miller: What are preceptors?

Noone: Preceptors are experienced nurses in a variety of clinical settings that take on the role of mentoring nursing students and new nurses or nurse’s new to a clinical unit.

Miller: So it’s not quite the level of education necessary to get a master’s in nursing education, but it is an official course of study to be an official mentor.

Noone: Well, it’s to enhance their skills as preceptors. Many of them have already taken some continuing education to become a preceptor and some training related to this, but these are specific graduate courses that will even enhance that ability. In particular, to really promote the nurse’s ability to help resolve health equity issues or health disparities.

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Miller: How are these two new programs that you’ve just described different from Oregon’s existing nurse educator programs?

Noone: The new clinical nurse faculty scholar program will be quite similar. However, we will also be supporting socialization to the nurse educator role. So we have stipends and travel money to attend faculty development sessions and to network with other nurse educators. We’ll be supporting the participants in monthly meetups to learn more about the nurse educator role and to meet with experienced nurse educators.

Miller: Susan Bakewell-Sachs, I can see how having more nurse educators in a region could eventually lead to more nurses. But in the short term, are you “robbing Peter to pay Paul?” If you’re going to be turning experienced current clinical nurses into educators, does that mean that those people, they wouldn’t be clinical nurses at the same time?

Bakewell-Sachs: Actually we are not seeking to pull those nurses away from their clinical roles. We are seeking to connect and prepare those nurses to be part of the education process. We know from clinical nurses that this is something that’s often very rewarding for them and offers them the opportunity to contribute and offer their clinical expertise along with these combined education competencies to prepare the next generation. So actually we hope [it] will be a retention tool to keep nurses in positions and offer them this additional opportunity.

Miller: What steps are you taking at OHSU, or around the state, to improve or extend the diversity of the nursing workforce?

Bakewell-Sachs: Thank you for that question. OHSU, this education academy that we’re speaking about today, is one part of a larger, more comprehensive focus on a variety of issues including enhancing the diversity and the numbers of traditionally historically underrepresented individuals into nursing. We have a new appropriation from the state. It’s called the 30-30-30 plan. This is going to enable us to enhance the numbers of our faculty, to recruit and retain more diverse faculty and provide student support in ways that we hope will make our programs more accessible and allow us to have our student body increase across OHSU, beyond the School of Nursing. [It will] enhance our diversity across the student bodies at OHSU to 30% diversity.

Miller: Joanne Noone, we heard earlier that we’re talking about five different campuses. I think people often think about OHSU as a Portland-based health organization, but what are the regional partnerships that you have?

Noone: As you noted and as Susan mentioned, we have five regional campuses, including our main campus in Portland. We also have campuses in Monmouth, Klamath Falls, La Grande and Ashland. We chose the major clinical partners associated with each of those campuses. Our main partner for this opportunity is OHSU Hospital, who’s our major partner with the Portland campus, Salem Hospital and Clinics, who is the main partner for our Monmouth campus, the La Grande-based Grande Ronde Hospital and Clinics, Sky Lakes Medical Center in Klamath Falls, and Asante Health Systems in Southern Oregon.

Miller: Is there a connection in general between where nurses-to-be train and where they’re likely to end up practicing?

Noone: Our whole goal is to promote that and for people to be able to stay and work in their communities. That’s the beauty of online education.

Miller: You noted that you teach one of the courses that preceptors can take – about the social determinants of health. What are examples that nurse educators will be taught?

Noone: Social determinants of health are the conditions in which people live that may determine their health and leads to, for example, some communities having different health access or health opportunities as a result. We explore a variety of these issues in this course. Actually students, learners in this course, choose a population to focus on that they’re interested in. So they may be looking at barriers to care for rural elders or increased mental health issues in certain populations. The beauty of this is that they have the skills necessary to be able to teach other nurses about that, too, and to make changes in their clinical environment.

Miller: Susan Bakewell-Sachs, educator pipelines are obviously not instant fixes. What’s the time frame that you’re looking at?

Bakewell-Sachs: Our commitment to the state for the 30-30-30 plan is that by 2030, we will have increased the proportion of our graduates from our clinical programs by 30%. We need to do this concurrently with building the education capacity to do that well. So we will have a phased approach to increasing our enrollments. We will do that as we work closely with our clinical partners and our own faculty to ensure that we have the education capacity to do it well.

Miller: Susan Bakewell-Sachs and Joanne Noone, thanks very much.

Noone: Thank you.

Bakewell-Sachs: Thank you.

Miller: Joanne Noone is a professor in the OHSU School of Nursing. Susan Bakewell-Sachs is the Dean of that school and Vice President for Nursing Affairs.

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